Interested in a movie this weekend that doesn’t involve bondage, snipers or talking sponges? You want something funny and romantic. I suggest tracking down The Rewrite, the latest collaboration between writer/director Marc Lawrence and Hugh Grant. Previously, the two collaborated on the films Two Week’s Notice, Music and Lyrics and Did You Hear About the Morgans? Their latest is a fine addition to the romantic comedy genre, with Grant getting the chance to star alongside the delightful Marisa Tomei, and share screen time with J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney and Chris Elliott.
I’m surprised that The Rewrite is getting dumped into theaters with zero fanfare and a simultaneous VOD release. Used to be a film like this, especially on Valentine’s Day weekend, would receive an advertising blitz get played on several thousands screens. With its limited number of theaters and it going straight to VOD, I assumed (as I’m sure many will) that the film is a bomb and not worth not my time.
I was wrong.
While The Rewrite isn’t perfect, it definitely hits all the right notes in terms of laughs and romance. At the same time, Lawrence provides some nice twists throughout the movie to allow Grant to stretch his dramatic muscles. The actor still performs the self-deprecating act better than anyone, but a subplot involving an estranged son provides some meat to the story.
In the film, Grant plays Keith Michaels, a screenwriter who hit it big with his first movie (and even won the Academy Award), but has had bomb after bomb ever since. He’s past his prime and the only job his agent can find him is teaching screenwriting at a college in upstate New York. Keith reluctantly accepts the teaching gig, thinking it will be easy cash and he’ll have little involvement with his students. After all, you can’t ”teach” writing, you either have it or you don’t. At least, that’s what Keith believes.
He makes the trek east and quickly assimilates himself with academia by carrying on an affair with one of his students, played by Bella Heathcote. He has a goofy neighbor (Elliott), a no-nonsense boss (Simmons) and a nemesis in an uptight Jane Austen loving English professor (Janney). One of Keith’s students is a single mom starting her life over. Holly (Tomei) works two jobs to make ends meet and she’s putting herself through college to make her kids lives better.
On paper, it sounds very formulaic, but the execution and the dialogue are strong enough to lift The Rewrite above the standard rom com paradigm. Moreover, the caliber of acting in the movie makes it a worthwhile investment. Lawrence and Grant may have stumbled with Morgans, their last outing, but Lawrence’s track record, which includes writing Miss Congeniality and Forces of Nature, should have earned a little more respect with The Rewrite. Furthermore, with virtually nothing in theaters that’s even close to a traditional romantic film this weekend, I’m shocked that The Rewrite has been written off by its distributor, Lionsgate.
The Rewrite opens today. Check your local theaters for showtimes. The film is also for rent on iTunes and Amazon.