Cert: 12A / 107 mins / Dir. Marc Lawrence
When cocksure, washed up, former big-time screenwriter Keith Michaels*1 finds the Hollywood workload drying up, he resorts to teaching a college class as a means of paying the bills. But hey, maybe he'll end up learning something along the way too, eh? Eh? No? Oh, suit yourselves. Yeah, it's essentially Music and Lyrics, but with films. Kinda. Look, it's got Hugh Grant in it, what more do you want? Yeah. Yeah, that's what I thought.
Neither as charming as Notting Hill, nor as infuriating as American Dreamz, Marc Lawrence's vapid rom-com*2 occupies the safe middle-ground which makes up so much of Hugh Grant's CV. The self-reflective and slightly mournful tone make The Rewrite feel like it should be a Woody Allen film. Sadly, it's neither funny nor incisive enough to sit in that bracket for the duration of any of its scenes, let alone the 107 minute runtime. Grant's screenwriter Keith is nowhere near as acerbic as his character needs to be to undergo a meaningful transformation (or "journey") in the film. Attempting to phone in his performance, Grant seems hopelessly out of his depth in a role which really demands nothing of him. The resigned fallback on Bumbling Niceguy™ would be fine in a more uptight Britcom, but Hugh's transatlantic costars out-sass him at every turn.
Marisa Tomei gives the best performance she can as a romantic lead who's almost sidelined into being an incidental character, and it's Alison Janney, JK Simmons and Chris Elliot who get to bring some actual jokes to the comedy flick. The script features some sharp verbal quips which are so underplayed they feel like afterthoughts, and the much referred-to Third Act™ is full of underdeveloped relationships and apparent callbacks to gags which have been lost in the edit.
It's a lazy, lazy screenplay which puts the enthusiastic geek of an aspiring writer in a succession of Star Wars t-shirts; to the point where I saw so much of myself in Andrew Keenan-Bolger's character that I now hate me more with every. word. I. type.
Despite all my moaning, The Rewrite isn't a bad film per se, it's just a bland one. The thing is, Grant and Tomei already have a host of those on their IMDB profiles, and can both do so much better; now is not the time to be coasting on charm.
It seems ironic that a film about a screenwriter should feel so much like an unfinished second-draft. Maybe that's the point, but I hope not. The Rewrite's plot is stable enough, but the characters need some work...
"…I'm sorry, I used to know what was funny".
Hugh Grant there, with a tellingly pre-emptive apology in the first ten minutes of the film.
No. If anything, the trailer's better. The Jane Austen joke works so much better in the trailer.
Not really, if I'm being honest, but neither did I scowl in disbelief…
What, be a beige b-list vehicle for Grant and Tomei? Absoluely.
This is a DVD on a Sunday afternoon.
I won't avoid it, but there's little there to make me seek the film out, now.
There ain't. Which isn't surprising in all fairness.
When Hugh's character has the lazy-screenwriting-shorthand of a power-cut in his apartment (to illustrate that he's on a financial precipice, do you see?), how come his internet keeps working? The laptop and the mobile I can understand, but how many adults do you know that use their mobile internet in the house?
1 Keith Michaels. How did writer/director Marc Lawrence come up with a character-name as instinctively memorable as Keith Michaels? Yes, I'm being sarcastic. I've had to IMDB the name twice in the course of writing this review…
*2 Although if you think that The Rewrite is light on the com, you're going to be seriously disappointed with how ineffectual the rom is. In that regard, the film's just a comedy.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.