Posted on February 5, 2015 at 5:53 pmB+
|Lowest Recommended Age:
|Some strong and crude language
|Date Released to Theaters:
|February 6, 2015
Sometimes all we want from a movie is Hugh Grant delivering witty, self-deprecating lines about his empty life and bad choices as he learns to find his heart and soul. You know, the cinematic equivalent to eating a pint of Rocky Road ice cream, wearing your comfiest pajamas. And every so often, we are lucky enough to get one. Writer/director Marc Lawrence understands exactly what we want from Grant in a romantic comedy. He gave us the underrated Music & Lyrics (its best moments include a wildly funny, spot-on version of a 1980’s music video and the delightful Kristen Johnson). He wrote “Two Weeks Notice,” in which Grant was so good it was possible to ignore the failures of the script. He even made Grant look good in the otherwise irretrievably awful Did You Hear About the Morgans? Here he has created just the right part for Grant as Keith Michaels, an Oscar-winning screenwriter who has had a string of flops and has now lost his family, his money, his self-respect, and any possible chance of a writing job in Hollywood, for which self-respect is not only not a necessity, but in fact is a liability.
The only prospect Michaels has of cash coming into rather than out of his bank account is accepting an offer to teach screenwriting at a liberal arts college in upstate New York where it rains all the time. The idea appalls him, but his long-suffering agent and his empty bank account persuade him to accept. He arrives determined “to do as little as possible while carrying on with this charade” but be miserable anyway. After he has sex with one of the students he realizes that college girls are lovely and young enough to see him as glamorous. After he insults one of the faculty members (Allison Janney, criminally underused as a humorless Jane Austen specialist who has never heard of “Clueless” or seen any of the movie adaptations, as if there was such a thing), he is reminded that he is, in fact expected to attend class and convey some information and guidance to the students. So, he selects his class on the basis of looks (the girls have to be what for reasons of civility we will just call pretty and the boys have to be what we will call not much of a threat as competition). In other words, he is using the class as a sort of analog version of Tinder.
It turns out that one of the students has written an excellent screenplay, which reminds him that he is capable of recognizing good work and a good opportunity to get back to Hollywood. He sends it to his agent asking her to offer it only if he can produce, not because he has any ideas or expertise but because it is leverage. And it turns out that one of the students is not young and pliable but certainly lovely. Her name is Holly (Marisa Tomei) and she is a single mom, too down to earth to qualify as a manic pixie dream girl, but certainly a life-force, filled with optimism that (thankfully) is not the usual mindless bubbliness but thoughtful and hard-won.
The film never takes itself too seriously, with winks at the audience including Grant’s character buying Jane Austen movies for a colleague (presumably including his own “Sense and Sensibility”) and watching his Oscar acceptance on YouTube (a real-life clip of Grant’s own Golden Globe win). There are no surprises, but sometimes, with a movie like this, that’s just what you want.
Parents should know that this film has very strong language, sexual references and situations including professor/student sex, drinking and drunkenness.
Family discussion: How does the script for this film follow the principals Keith teaches his students? Why is Holly cheerful?
If you like this, try: “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Sense and Sensibility,” and “Music & Lyrics”