RewritecoverGrade: B-
Entire family: Yes, but . . . .
2014, 107 min., Color
RLJ/Image Entertainment
Not rated (would be PG-13 for drinking and adult situations)
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Bonus features: C-
Trailer

Hugh Grant is known for his boyish good looks, casual charm, and dry sense of humor. Writer-director Marc Lawrence is known for casting him.

Thus far Grant has starred in four of Lawrence’s lightweight PG-13 comedies, and while Music and Lyrics remains the best of the bunch—partly because of the chemistry that Grant had with co-star Drew Barrymore—The Rewrite is better than Two Weeks Notice and Did You Hear About the Morgans?

There are some genuinely funny moments in this comedy about an Oscar-winning writer who can’t find work and quickly manages to upset the apple cart after arriving at SUNY-Binghamton to teach a screenwriting course as a visiting writer-in-residence.

Keith Michaels, a one-hit wonder known only for penning Paradise Misplaced, violates teaching ethics by bedding the “apple polisher” that flirts with him his very first night in upstate New York. He drinks too much at the classic wine-and-cheese faculty reception and insults their Jane Austen scholar (Allison Janney). He becomes the talk of the campus after selecting his students on the basis of their attractiveness rather than the strength of their screenplays. And he all but forces an easygoing department chair (J.K. Simmons) to reprimand him after he meets with his students for a total of five minutes and tells them to come back after a month, when they’ve written a complete screenplay.

Michaels isn’t quite at rock bottom, but he still needs to travel a pretty long character arc to reach a point of redemption. And that’s what screenplays are all about.  

RewritescreenThe catalyst in his transformation is a plucky single mom (Marisa Tomei) who sees right through him but is determined to get his feedback on her manuscript in order to learn how to write a successful screenplay. Like “non-traditional students” in real life, she wants what knowledge the teacher has to give her, and if it takes giving him classroom prompts to get him talking, so be it.

Tomei’s character rings true, but the others fall a little short. The faculty aren’t nearly as overbearing and arrogant and quirky as they can be on many college campuses, and the students themselves aren’t as distinctive as they could be. As a result, the classroom sequences fall short in the energy and joke departments, and that means it may not hold the interest of children in their early teens or younger. But other than Michaels waking in bed next to a student and their implied lovemaking, his drinking too much, and a student’s reference to “weed,” there’s really nothing on-camera that kids can’t see. The question is, would they want to watch? The Rewrite should provide a night of diversion for families with older children that love romantic comedies, but you have to love the genre—or Hugh Grant—to enjoy this one.

I won’t go so far as to quip that the film needed another rewrite, but the classroom dynamic seemed off just enough to make you suspect that writer-director Lawrence could have made a good film very good with just a few more tweaks.

Language: Cleaner than most PG-13 movies
Sex: Only implied
Violence: N/A
Adult situations: drinking, mention of “weed”
Takeaway: People CAN change

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