Take a Drink: for each romantic comedy cliche
Take a Drink: whenever Hugh Grant uses his usual mannerisms
Do a Shot: when J.K. Simmons cries
Take a Drink: whenever the characters do
Do a Shot: for when they visit Spiedie’s rib pit
By: Matt Conway (Three Beers) –
What has happened to Hugh Grant? Previously known as one of Hollywood’s most beloved eccentrics, Grant was the icon of romantic comedies in the early 2000’s, with roles in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Notting Hill making Grant a star. His fast-talking English charm was an endearing quality that no other actor possessed, as he brought a great deal of humor and humanity to his respective roles.
After an era of great hits, however, Grant struggled to find the same level of success recently. Unlike some actors whose failures are the fault of their choices, Grant seems to be a product of the dying interest in the romantic comedy genre and people tiring of Grant’s mannerisms. Recent romantic comedies Music and Lyrics and Did You Hear About the Morgans? were lackluster scripts at best, with the latter being rather dreadful. Grant’s latest romcom venture, The Rewrite, may not come close to his past work, but is a worthwhile effort.
The Rewrite follows Keith Michaels, an Oscar-winning screenwriter who has not found much success since then. He moves to the East Coast where he gets a teaching gig at a local college, where he begins to connect with Holly Carpenter, a student and single mother.
As usual with the romantic comedies he stars in, Hugh Grant is as charming as ever. Now at 54 years of age, Grant does not have the pretty boy charm he had early in his career, but has matured nicely. As Keith, it’s easy to see how Grant has some relation to the character, as Keith is a somewhat broken man trying to reinvent himself to find the success he once had. With that being the case, Grant also gets an opportunity to show off his dramatic chops in some of the film’s quieter moments.
Co-starring along with Grant is Marisa Tomei, another talented actress who despite her talent, has not always landed the best roles. In The Rewrite, however, Tomei is game, going toe to toe with Grant in every way. Both together have a certain spark, and their connection is very genuine. Tomei always has had a nature likability, and it’s nice to see her in a role that utilizes that.
The Rewrite’s script is relatively solid. Written by Marc Lawrence, who collaborated previously with Grant in Music and Lyrics, the script knows Grant’s penchant for witty comedy and uses it to its advantage. Outside of Grant, the script develops some funny bits for the side characters. J.K. Simmons in particular steals the show as a seemingly normal army man who gets oh so emotional when talking about his family. Other actors like Allison Janney and Bella Heathcote do solid work in their respective bits as well.
Also directing the film is Lawrence, who does a solid job in that front as well. The film is set and shot in Binghamton College, an area I have actually visited in my life. Lawrence does a nice job of showing the quaint town, with the cloudy atmosphere going hand in hand with Keith’s mood. Lawrence paces the film quite nicely too, as the film’s 107 minute running time flies by.
The Rewrite’s best quality is its earnest likability. During every minute during the film’s running time it’s hard to truly dislike it, as it has a cozy blanket quality that is hard to truly dislike. This also is the case for the film’s simple, but sweet messages of it’s never to late to redeem yourself and the importance of helping others as much as one can.
While the script has some good aspects, it also has some issues. Like in most romantic comedies, the characters and their issues are presented in a very superficial and one-sided manner. The characters’ complexities never feel truly real, as they are presented in a way that doesn’t feel the most authentic. There is promise shown in some of the film’s quieter scenes, but a lot of the character development is shown in a hackneyed way.
Like a lot of romantic comedies, quite a few side characters in the film are weak. While there are some exceptions like with J.K. Simmons’ character, a lot of these characters are cliches who are just there to move the plot forward. Most of these characters are Grant’s students, who actually take up a lot more of the running time then one would expect.
The cardinal sin of a majority of romantic comedies is that they have the same routine storyline, and the same problem is the case for The Rewrite. You could not watch a single second of footage and still predict the plot and ending of the film, and that is just where the romantic comedy genre is today. There are not enough different and exciting stories, which has brought the genre down a peg.
Despite its routine nature, The Rewrite is a charming and likable romantic comedy featuring a welcome return for Hugh Grant. It’s surprisingly funny and executes its recycled elements better than most romcoms.