Skip to main content

I think Kim Jong-un is pretty sexy.

The Rewrite
(2014)

Hugh Grant doesn’t really need to work much if he doesn’t want to, so it’s probably this fact that keeps him off scree rather than a desire to limit the exposure of his “brand”. If asked, he would probably indulge a spot of Boris Johnson-esque toff bluster about how no one really wants to see him everywhere and it’s in their own best interests, while secretly enjoying all the attention. But the harsh truth is, Grant has reached his mid-50s, and he may also be questioning how long he can continue to pull off the self-effacing, stammering, moderately charming English chappie. It's an essentially youthful type. That rather droll persona, the one who swears like a trooper but does so endearingly, and manages to be extremely rude to people without really meaning it. Hugh may not attract the audiences he did in his prime, but few do. If you like Grant, The Rewrite will probably do nicely. It’s undemanding, fitfully funny, and features just enough gags revolving around the Hollywood moviemaking machine to make it seem vaguely self-aware.


The last time Grant was on screen he played a cannibal (the time before that he voiced a pirate captain for Aardman), and next he’ll be playing Waverley in The Man from UNCLE, so accusing him of resting on his laurels is only really fair with regard to leading man duties. The Rewrite knows that particular persona as clearly as it did in his last three collaborations with writer-director Marc Lawrence (Two Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics, Did You Hear About the Morgans?) When Lawrence directs, he directs with Hugh, or so it appears so far. It isn’t exactly De Niro and Scorsese, but it will do. Lawrence has an ear for Grant dialogue, so Hugh’s often funny.


Here Hugh’s Keith Michaels (Richards?), a fading Hollywood screenwriter who won an Oscar a decade and a half earlier (for Paradise Misplaced, a suitably silly sounding tale of angels who send the wrong soul to hell and attempt to retrieve him), but whose career now amounts to people at airports telling him he wrote their favourite movie. In desperation he takes a teaching gig at unglamorous Binghamton University, an upstate New York college (and the town from whence Rod Serling hails).


Keith’s view of teachers is remorselessly low (“They’re frustrated losers who haven’t done anything with their own life so they want to instruct other people”) and he proceeds to show off a winning line in flagrant irresponsibility upon his arrival. He shags the first student he lays eyes on (Bella Heathcote), insults the Austen-loving head of the ethics committee (Allison Janney), chooses his students on the basis of looks, and adjourns his class for a month as he doesn’t believe writing can be taught. Despite this, Lawrence could have upped the dastardly side further without worrying about losing sympathy. Grant is forever the fecklessly amiable clod who we’ll get behind in the end, and Keith’s really only moderately naughty, and bashfully apologetic when he’s done bad.


Still, there are enough occasions of classic Grant delivery mode to satisfy. He drunkenly digs himself a hole when holding forth about the preponderance of movies with kick ass girls, and how it would be empowering not to have a movie about a kick ass girl, “Or better yet, a movie where a girl gets her arse kicked”. The screenwriting gags are fun enough too (I particularly liked the student suggestions for the inevitable Paradise Misplaced 2, something Keith swore off when he was still young and believed in himself; “Maybe instead of going to hell this time they go into space”). Lawrence also inevitably plunders the idea that everyone wants to write a movie script; even Keith’s nemesis has a screenplay idea.


Just to ensure there’s a veneer of substance, Lawrence incorporates a debate on whether one either has talent or one doesn’t, but its conclusions are left tentative (Keith’s great success is a student who needed no tutorship, and yet he comes around to loving his job). Hugh’s learning curve is wholly typical of this type of movie, maybe even a little more rote than usual; of course he will fall for single mum Marisa Tomei. Of course he will learn to be responsible. Of course he will reconnect with his son. I have no objections to an easy-going romantic comedy, but this one is so fait accompli, one wishes there was a little more bite somewhere.


The supporting cast go through their paces responsibly but with little sustenance. JK Simmons is the faculty head who can’t stop weeping whenever he thinks of his daughters (as laboured as it sounds, but Simmons is a pro), Chris Elliott, unusually, plays a weirdo teacher (with a Shakespeare fixation and a dog called Henry IV). Next Big Thing Heathcote is both cute and appropriately abrasive when scorned (unlike everyone else she still hates Hugh at the end). 


The rest of the class are a predictably quirky (so not really), including the miserable girl, the airhead, and the Star Wars obsessive. While the threat of Keith being dismissed for shagging a student ensures a vague level of conflict, the romance with the always-likeable, chipmunk-adorable Tomei treads water. As does The Rewrite generally, it will do, but Lawrence should probably have persevered over a couple more drafts.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

What we sell are hidden truths. Our territory is the mind. Our merchandise is fear.

The Avengers 5.1: The Fear Merchants
The colour era doesn't get off to such a great start with The Fear Merchants, an Avengers episode content to provide unstinting averageness. About the most notable opinion you’re likely to come away with is that Patrick Cargill rocks some magnificent shades.

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

Do not run a job in a job.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)
(SPOILERS) There’s nothing wrong with the gender-swapped property per se, any more than a reboot, remake or standard sequel exploiting an original’s commercial potential (read: milking it dry). As with those more common instances, however, unless it ekes out its own distinctive territory, gives itself a clear reason to be, it’s only ever going to be greeted with an air of cynicism (whatever the current fashion for proclaiming it valid simply because it's gender swapped may suggest to the contrary).  The Ocean's series was pretty cynical to start with, of course – Soderbergh wanted a sure-fire hit, the rest of the collected stars wanted the kudos of working with Soderbergh on a "classy" crowd pleaser, the whole concept of remaking the '60s movie was fairly lazy, and by the third one there was little reason to be other than smug self-satisfaction – so Ocean's 8 can’t be accused of letting any side down. It also gives itself distinctively – stereo…

There’s still one man out here some place.

Sole Survivor (1970)
(SPOILERS) I’m one for whom Sole Survivor remained a half-remembered, muddled dream of ‘70s television viewing. I see (from this site) the BBC showed it both in 1979 and 1981 but, like many it seems, in my veiled memory it was a black and white picture, probably made in the 1950s and probably turning up on a Saturday afternoon on BBC2. Since no other picture readily fits that bill, and my movie apparition shares the salient plot points, I’ve had to conclude Sole Survivor is indeed the hitherto nameless picture; a TV movie first broadcast by the ABC network in 1970 (a more famous ABC Movie of the Week was Spielberg’s Duel). Survivor may turn out to be no more than a classic of the mind, but it’s nevertheless an effective little piece, one that could quite happily function on the stage and which features several strong performances and a signature last scene that accounts for its haunting reputation.

Directed by TV guy Paul Stanley and written by Guerdon Trueblood (The…

It’s all Bertie Wooster’s fault!

Jeeves and Wooster 3.4: Right Ho, Jeeves  (aka Bertie Takes Gussie's Place at Deverill Hall)
A classic set-up of crossed identities as Bertie pretends to be Gussie and Gussie pretends to be Bertie. The only failing is that the actor pretending to be Gussie isn’t a patch on the original actor pretending to be Gussie. Although, the actress pretending to be Madeline is significantly superior than her predecessor(s).

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).