Being a teacher usually means being in a thankless job. And for some, like Hugh Grant’s character in The Rewrite, it means that it’s a last resort for someone who can no longer do, so they teach. But what Grant learns is that regardless of his thoughts on teaching, when it comes to his dead-end career, it gives him a new perspective. And The Rewrite isn’t necessarily a new perspective on the subject of teaching, nor is it a breakthrough on the topic of burnt-out careers (it’s a writer this time and not an actor like we’ve previously seen a lot in 2014), but it serves its purpose as a comedy with heartwarming moments, a good cast, and the idea of finding something you’re good at any age, because it’s never too late.
Keith Michaels (Grant), an award-winning screenwriter, most popular for writing the screenplay for the fictitiously popular “Paradise Misplaced,” is stuck in a rut. His career has taken a major hit, no studio producers are interested in hearing his latest pitch after a string of misfires, all critical and box office failures, and the best job he can get at the moment is as a professor at Binghamton University in upstate New York, where he’s set to teach screenwriting to a small class.
At first, Keith doesn’t take it seriously. He’s so down trodden that everything and anything gives him misery. He’s cynical and moody, chooses most of his class based on their looks and not their screenplay, sleeps with on of his students (Bella Heathcote), has a terrible working relationship with a Jane Austen-teaching professor (Allison Janney), and thinks this whole teaching thing is a waste of time and is only good money until he can get back on his feet. While he teaches, he’s quickly given his own life lessons from many people while he’s at the university, including the optimistic Holly (Marisa Tomei).
To start with (and this will probably be the most negative thing I write about the film), Hugh Grant’s character comes off like a complete jerk in the beginning. He’s mean-spirited and rude to the faculty members, and honestly unfriendly and semi-unlikable. Thankfully, after he starts taking his class seriously, all of this changes. Grant, to his credit, is always good at playing these kinds of characters. And this film, which is directed by Marc Lawrence (Music and Lyrics, Two Weeks Notice), makes clear that sour, quick-witted, and miserably funny is Grant’s forte. He makes being unhappy funny, and that isn’t easy.
Grant almost always has great chemistry with the leading actress of any film, and this is the case here. He and Marisa Tomei share an easy back and forth banter type of chemistry. Tomei’s character is much more likable than him and through her, you kind of start to like his character more. Outside of Tomei, Grant, who isn’t really anything without a fantastic supporting cast, definitely has one here and they make him better. From Chris Elliott, Allison Janney, to J.K. Simmons (whose character is used to good comedic effect), these three aren’t just sideline support, but they’re also memorable.