(director/writer: Marc Lawrence; cinematographer: Jonathan Brown; editor: Ken Eluto; music: Clyde Lawrence; cast: Hugh Grant (Keith Michaels), Marisa Tomei (Holly Carpenter), Bella Heathcote (Karen Gabney), J.K. Simmons (Dr. Lerner), Allison Janney (Prof. Mary Weldon), Chris Elliott (Prof. Jim Harper), Caroline Aaron (Ellen), Steven Kaplan (Clem Ronson), Emily Morden (Andrea Stein-Rosen), Annie Qian (Sara), Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Billy Frazier), Aja Naomi King (Rosa), Maggie Geha (Flo), Nicole Patrick (Jessica), Olivia Luccardi (Chloe), Jason Antoon (Greg), Karen Pittman (Naomi), Mark Nelson (Josh); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Martin Shafer/Liz Glotzer; Image Entertainment; 2014)
“Agreeable and familiar writer’s block rom-com.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Marc Lawrence (“Music and Lyrics”/”Two Weeks Notice”) directs and writes this agreeable and familiar writer’s block rom-com. The story is executed by the numbers and is predictable, but Hugh Grant is perfectly charming in a part he can do in his sleep. When the once sought after Oscar-winning screenwriter Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) can’t land a Hollywood gig because his recent films were all flops his agent (Caroline Aaron) lands the middle-aged divorced womanizer and estranged father of a college son, a creative writing job in rural upstate New York’s Binghamton College. The reluctant and cynical screenwriter, who thinks writers cannot be taught, plans to coast through the gig. But is challenged to do a professional job by the college’s prim Jane Austen scholar Prof. Weldon (Allison Janney) he insulted at a wine and cheese English department gathering and by the students interested in the course. The uptight scholarly professor despises his negative teaching attitude and wonders if he has violated the college ethic code by sleeping with one of his students (Bella Heathcote). Keith ends the affair when told by his genial colleague (Chris Elliott) you can get fired for doing that. The screenwriter also reverses his decision to dismiss his class for a month so he can have time to write the sequel to his hit film Paradise Misplaced that he wrote 15 years ago. Sweet, middle-aged, single mom, part-time student Holly (Marisa Tomei), who works as a waitress and in the college bookstore, gets accepted as the eleventh student in his class, and she gets him to take a serious turn at teaching and begins a real adult relationship with him. The nerdy Clem (Steve Kaplan) hands in a brilliant screenplay, which Keith sends to his agent. When the semester ends Keith is able to show how a good teacher can improve his students, as his class thanks him for imparting his knowledge. Meanwhile Clem’s screenplay gets accepted by Keith’s former studio bosses, as Keith thinks he might give college teaching another try when Hollywood is still not calling him and he realizes his life needs a rewrite.J.K. Simmons is a hoot as the ex-marine head of the English department, whose life revolves around his four daughters. The reward is watching a great supporting cast and a winsome star turn a slight story into a pleasant sitcom by overcoming some of the academic strains.
REVIEWED ON 2/7/2017 GRADE: B-