The Rewrite (2014) – Review

Marc Lawrence’s new film about a washed up Academy Award-winning screenwriter who, out of desperation, takes a job in the isolated city of Binghamton where he’ll teach a screenwriting class full of self-picked models and nerds – a profession he believes is ridiculous, with the mantra, “Anything worth knowing can’t be taught” – is pretty much the gold standard of meta writing. As the semi-famous Keith Michaels (Grant) instructs his class on story structure, conflicts, character arcs, protagonists and antagonists, what Lawrence is basically doing the whole way through is telling us how he’s telling us the story.  But the real knockout is when Michaels decides, based on his experience, to write a screenplay about a screenwriter who takes a job as a teacher…which might well just end up being called The Rewrite.  Who knows.

None of this presents a problem, of course. While Lawrence is busy writing a script within a script, he’s also crafting a sweet and fun story with bright, well-rounded characters, sparky dialogue and wry wit. Perhaps it’s slightly obvious in the way it goes about hitting the right notes – there’s nothing here we haven’t seen a hundred times before – but at least it’s not hitting the wrong ones. It certainly appears to be taking inspiration from something like Josh Boone’s Stuck In Love in the way it adulates writing.

While nothing like as interesting or impressive, the essence of the film remains inspirational; it’s a celebration of a craft and a way of saying, if your passion is unquenchable, you can accomplish anything. To give credence to that, I actually found myself drifting several times throughout, which I initially put down to being a problem on the film’s part until I realised I was just thinking about writing. The film was inspiring me, so in that capacity it works.

Marisa Tomei and Hugh Grant are pretty good together. Painted in very broad strokes – Tomei is the optimistic, life-embracing American while Grant is the curmudgeonly but loveable Brit (who guessed) – they play off each other really well and give the film some of its sweeter and fluffier moments. Perhaps The Rewrite is a little afraid to offend or dirty itself in any way as it wraps itself up in a cosy, perfect world bubble, but it has a clear agenda from the outset to satisfy and uplift, both of which it achieves with flying colours.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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