The Rewrite is just about as predictable as a movie can be. It's not even too far removed from many other Hugh Grant movies from the last couple of decades. And I really enjoyed, I tell you, REALLY enjoyed it. Despite the predictability, I almost rated it even higher than I eventually did.
Grant stars as Keith Michaels, an Oscar-winning writer who hasn't recaptured that glory in many years. He as had numerous meetings that lead to nothing and he needs some money. So he accepts a teaching job in Binghampton, despite believing that writing cannot be taught. Instead of reading all of the script extracts that should be the deciding factor on who gets into the class, he picks attractive girls (including Karen, played by Bella Heathcote, who he has also slept with on his first night in town) and a couple of non-threatening males. There's someone else who wants to get into his class. A woman (Holly, played by Marisa Tomei) who tries to hold on to optimism, whatever life has thrown her way. Will the students learn anything? Can Keith even make it to the end of term? He has a couple of allies (played by Chris Elliott and J. K. Simmons) but quickly makes a powerful enemy (Allison Janney).
The Rewrite is written and directed by Marc Lawrence, the man who also gave us Hugh Grant vehicles such as Two Weeks Notice, Music & Lyrics, and Did You Hear About The Morgans? I haven't seen that last movie YET but this film is very much in line with the first two. Grant is someone who, throughout the course of the film, eventually learns some lessons while finding himself growing closer to someone who may become a love of his life. Hs charm and humour help people to overlook his flaws as he wades through territory that is unfamiliar to him, and there's usually a major wobble in the third act that has to be fixed for a standard, happy, rom-com ending. Lawrence does this so entertainingly, helped by his leads and the whole supporting cast, that it's easy to actually admire the formulaic nature of it, rather than resent it.
Grant is as wonderful as he usually is in this kind of role, working a fun mix of cynicism, desperation, and a small shred of hope that he can see things out long enough to get back on his feet. Tomei is equally wonderful, she has been a romantic lead in many other movies and is always believably warm and lovable in those roles. Heathcote does well, as do Andrew Keenan Bolger, Steven Kaplan, Emily Morden, Annie Q, and the other women playing the students. Simmons is a delight as a man who jokingly gripes about being the only man in a household with his wife and daughters, and who always gets emotional when he starts talking about them in earnest, Elliott is fun as a teacher who wishes that his ability yo find a Shakespeare quote for any occasion could improve his lot in life, and Janney is very welcome in a role that could have easily gone to a lesser-known performer.
The only downside I can think of is the decidely average score. Well, you also have the formula, sometimes feeling almost slavishly adhered to. This is disposable entertainment. It just happens to be disposable entertainment that made me smile, laugh, and feel satisfyingly entertained from start to finish. Others might even agree with me.
You can buy The Rewrite here.
Americans can buy it here.