Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei star in Marc Lawrence's likeable if imperfect comedy
This engaging comedy marks the fourth collaboration between actor Hugh Grant and writer-director Marc Lawrence, following Two Weeks Notice, Did You Hear About The Morgans? and Music and Lyrics. The result is pretty much exactly what you're expecting from a Hugh Grant vehicle, though not without one or two wobbles along the way.
Grant plays Hollywood screenwriter Keith Michaels, who hasn't had a hit movie since winning an Oscar for the improbably titled (and awful sounding) comedy Paradise Misplaced in 1999. When he runs out of money, desperation forces him to accept a job as writer-in-residence at Binghampton University in upstate New York, but he gets off to a somewhat rocky start when he beds one of his prospective students (Bella Heathcote) and then insults a ranking faculty member (Allison Janney). However, he takes comfort in a growing connection with Holly (Marisa Tomei), a single mother who's working two jobs in order to fund her degree.
There's no way to sugar-coat it, the first twenty minutes of The Rewrite are excruciating to watch: the jokes feel forced, the dialogue rings false and you're not at all sure how funny the film expects you to find Keith's mortifying behaviour. However, with the introduction of Tomei's character, the film clicks into gear and it gradually becomes apparent that the opening was merely crude stage-setting for Keith's eventual redemption.
Once the film settles down and the dialogue improves, there's a lot to enjoy: Grant is on excellent form and has engaging chemistry with Tomei, while JK Simmons almost steals the entire film with a hilarious supporting turn as faculty colleague Dr Lerner. Similarly, after the aforementioned rocky start, Lawrence nails the tone and commendably skirts the usual mawkishness, resulting in an entertaining comedy with a nicely delivered message about second chances.
General release from Fri 10 Oct.