CRUMBLIES…. JACK… STEVE…
There’s a certain satisfaction in watching the pretty-boys of our youth get saggy-faced and decrepit. The once-smug Jenkins Junior from school now shits in a bag in his chest and waxes spiritual about the day they sewed up his arse. He says the urge has gone, but he still likes the feel of double-layered loo roll on his skin. It gives him flashbacks to the cheery best bits of the 1990s.
And so does The Rewrite. It is the romcom of our middle-years, with the lucky-bastard star of those of our twenties. Hugh Grant. Older. Saggier. Now on that line where mature men’s flirting is defined as sleazy just because.
I have not generally been a Hugh Grant fan in the past. His study in upper class emotional constipation didn’t particularly charm me in Four Weddings – and it wore ever thinner after that. But I liked him in About a Boy, where, as in this film, he extended his acting range largely by dialling down the poshness a bit. And, slightly to my own surprise, I really enjoyed this film.
He plays a writer. Successful two decades ago – to the point of prizes and adulation – he is entertained but snubbed by the industry these days. So, his agent despatches him to Nondescript-America and a teaching job. Fifteen minutes in and he has insulted the faculty (this is funny), slept with a remarkably pretty young student (this is…somewhere between wish fulfilment and utterly ghastly. See above for auto-sleaze), and organised his class through a review of their Social Media photos (okay, that even made Old Jack gasp in his stirrups).
Then things get real.
And you are way ahead of me, aren’t you?
- Does a cheery woman of his own age pitch up to edge him towards decency? Yes / No
- Does he help the students and come to like them? Yes / No
- Does he earn their respect and need to finish the teaching task by Act 3…?
Alert! Alert! Deactivate human brain!
The Rewrite is warmly obvious and yet – as the cooing farts in Old Jack’s common room testified – entirely welcome.
I properly enjoyed this march through the clichés of those 1990s romcoms. Hugh Grant is fun and accessible and pleasingly aged.
Why does Grant behave so obnoxiously early on? The film only tells us later that he’s drinking too heavily (although Grant doesn’t really play the key scenes as though he’s drunk) and that he’s feeling guilty about the beak-up of his own family. The film pulls its punches in this respect – fucked-up, self-hating middle-age drunks are unlikely to be as charming in reality as Hugh is here. But we’re in romcom land. I forgot you said to deactivate human brain.
JACK SAYS SOME MORE:
Marisa Tomei – monumentally better respected than in Crazy, Stupid, Love – is the womanly light of maturity that nudges the old boy into his late 50s with a dash of decency and flirtation. Bella Heathcote functions as the early sex companion, then glares for two hours whilst Daddy-issue hackery stops her developing further…
Whoa there! Let’s rewind just to consider the wonderfulness of Marisa Tomei. Not only she is always compelling as an actress but, frankly, she’s one of those women who just gets more attractive as the years pass. She’s twice as old as her fellow students in Hugh’s screenwriting class and twice as lovely too.
JACK PROCEEDS IN SHOCK:
And she is a fantastically talented actor and human being.
Okay, you know the ending. In fact, you know every beat of the plot and the intent of every scene, but jump on-board. J.K. Simmons (glorious and teary) and Allison Janney (steelily hilarious and deserved by the hero) are on this frothy train and…okay, it’s a bit naff, but there’s a whole bunch of class actors having fun.
Yep, both those performances are excellent. I particularly loved J.K. Simmons. He initially seems to be playing the same kind of tough nut he portrayed as the father in I Love You, Man, but it turns out that this crusty department head is so proud of his wife and three daughters that he can’t talk about them without welling up. It’s one of the sweetest and emotionally truest things in the film.
Old Jack gave into this mix of early laughs and creeping sentiment. You should too.
I certainly did. In the closing moments, my eyes were moister than they’ve been since Matron booked me a surprise prostate exam.
Marisa. Marisa. Such a pretty name.
You keep that up and Matron will activate the Prostato-bot for a nightly check. Stevey’s intimates will get sucked out of the 1970s. And in a really bad way.