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The Rewrite Blu-ray Review

The Rewrite (2015) movie poster The Rewrite

Theatrical Release: February 13, 2015 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Director: Marc Lawrence

Cast: Hugh Grant (Keith Michaels), Marisa Tomei (Holly Carpenter), Bella Heathcote (Karen Gabney), J.K. Simmons (Dr. Hal Lerner), Chris Elliott (Jim Harper), Allison Janney (Professor Mary Weldon), Jason Antoon (Greg Nathan), Jenny Neale (Jenny Glick), Caroline Aaron (Ellen), Bruce Sabath (Paul Prentiss), Karen Pittman (Naomi Watkins), Veanne Cox (Clara Foss), Maggie Geha (Flo Bai), Damaris Lewis (Maya), Lauren Macklin (Rachel Anslow), Emily Morden (Andrea Stein-Rosen), Annie Qian (Sara Liu), Aja Naomi King (Rosa Tojada), Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Billy Frazier), Steven Kaplan (Clem Ronson)

Buy The Rewrite from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

Whether or not you've noticed, Hugh Grant has been scarce in film of late. Since his last signature Hugh Grant romantic comedy, the 2009 flop Did You Hear About the Morgans?, he has voiced the protagonist of Aardman's The Pirates!,
played himself in Joaquin Phoenix's rap mockumentary, and appeared in the Wachowskis' toxic sci-fi epic Cloud Atlas. The actor who emerged as America's favorite Brit in 1990s hits like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Nine Months, and Notting Hill has gotten more attention recently for his role in uncovering the practice of tabloid journalists hacking celebrity cell phones for scoops. The film acting career that had served him well through the first half of the Noughties has since dried up, presumably partly at his own choosing.

Grant returns to his usual leading man duties in The Rewrite, the kind of comedy you could easily imagine him making twenty years earlier. Alas, while Grant's taste in movies hasn't changed, the public has. That much is evident in the film's manner of distribution: essentially going direct-to-video from Image Entertainment, a far cry from his studio pictures of yore that up to 3,000 theaters would exhibit.

Rewrite reteams Grant with Marc Lawrence, the former "Family Ties" writer and producer whose filmmaking career has consisted almost entirely of Hugh Grant vehicles and the two Miss Congeniality comedies. Lawrence writes and directs The Rewrite, wearing the same two hats he did on Grant's Noughties productions Two Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics, and the aforementioned Morgans.

"The Rewrite" stars Hugh Grant as an award-winning screenwriter turned screenwriting teacher, who doesn't actually believe that writing can be taught.

Grant plays Keith Michaels, who won a Best Original Screenplay award ("Oscar" is implied but never stated) back in 1999 for Paradise Misplaced, a film that remains beloved today. That was one of four movies that Keith has written or co-written, but he's basically considered a one-hit wonder. His pitches repeatedly turned down by young studio executives and suddenly unable to pay the bills, Keith reluctantly agrees to fill a writer-in-residence position and teach a screenwriting class at Binghamton University in upstate New York.

Keith does not harbor respect for education; he doesn't think writing can be taught or talent nurtured. Furthermore, the cloudy weather has him immediately missing his adopted home of Los Angeles. Rather than reading their 30-page screenplay submissions and picking the best ones, Keith looks up applicants on social media, selecting hot girls and nerds to fill his small class. He has already started a sexual relationship with Karen (Bella Heathcote), a student/admirer he met in a Wendy's.

Giving his class a month off just to write and beginning to consider penning a sequel to the only success he's had, Keith makes different impressions on a number of people enrolled at or employed by the state university. He comes across as a misogynist to Jane Austen-loving literary snob professor Mary Weldon (Allison Janney). More receptive to his charm are: Holly Carpenter (Marisa Tomei), a middle-aged sophomore psych major (and obviously more age-appropriate love interest) working two jobs and raising two daughters, and English department chair Dr. Lerner (recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons), a sympathetic, henpecked former Marine.

English department chair Dr. Lerner (J.K. Simmons) remains impartial, while Jane Austen-loving scholar Mary Weldon (Allison Janney) takes a strong and immediate dislike to her Hollywood-seasoned new colleague.

The Rewrite shows zero growth from Lawrence and Grant. The filmmaker and leading man have clearly enjoyed their three previous collaborations and seem utterly uninterested in trying something different.
Maybe it's unreasonable to expect men in their mid-fifties who have each been working in the business for over thirty years to suddenly broaden their horizons. But they both might have to, should they wish to continue to make movies that people will actually see.

Of the two, Grant has had far more success, which along with his visibility makes his failures here both more personal and disappointing. Though he has specialized in making unchallenging, middle-of-the-road fare, Grant has built plenty of goodwill over the years for his above-average efforts, including his work for Richard Curtis (Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Love Actually, and the Bridget Jones series). By comparison to those, Grant's pairings with Lawrence haven't been anywhere near as fruitful and rewatchable. Each of their collaborations has grossed less than the one before it, and this one is the first to truly question Grant's transatlantic appeal, getting largely shut out of North American theaters after disappointing in the UK, other parts of Europe, and Asia.

Rewrite is actually a better movie than Morgans and would not be out of place in theaters. But it does have a bygone sensibility to it, feeling like something you'd choose to see Groundhog Day over. After defying it for so long, Grant is finally starting to look his age. And while many men in their fifties have no trouble getting juicy movie roles, Grant does seem a bit old to be clinging to his well-known persona of the cute, stammering young bachelor.

Though he surrounds himself with talent here, neither he nor his castmates can help you overlook the screenplay's many trite and stupid bits. Binghamton, where Lawrence graduated college in 1981, is portrayed as this oft-overcast wasteland whose only claims to fame are being the home to "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling, carousels, and Spiedie & Rib Pit. Keith's students include a Star Wars-obsessed nerd and a humorless cynical girl. While these characters admirably are all given arcs, they are of the predictable variety and do little for you.

Like past Lawrence/Grant comedies, this one deserves a PG-13 rating, but Image Entertainment hasn't even gone through the trouble of getting it that, saving a few thousand dollars and leaving the film unrated by the MPAA. In another unconventional touch, the movie goes without opening credits and a title card, an apparent blunder which means that technically those sticklers at IMDb should insist the movie is listed as [untitled] (or perhaps its working title "Untitled Marc Lawrence Comedy") and that its writer-director is uncredited.

The Rewrite Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $29.97
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($29.96 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Hugh Grant movies aren't typically celebrated for their technical splendor and The Rewrite is no exception. Still, the movie looks quite all right on Blu-ray, the 2.40:1 picture staying clean and sharp throughout and the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio crisply and evenly distributing dialogue and music.

Students like the Star Wars-obsessed Billy Frazier (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) read from their finished screenplays in this deleted scene. Marc Lawrence rocks a New York Mets hat while discussing the movie on which he is oddly not officially credited.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Rewrite is joined by a basic but suitable handful of bonus features,

all of which the Blu-ray presents in HD.

First up come two short deleted scenes: what was intended to be a running gag (1:05) of one-sided small talk between Keith and a parking lot guard (John Deyle) and then some unused additional excerpts of student screenplay presentations (1:40) featured at the end of the film.

Next, we get "The Making of The Rewrite" (7:47), a standard yet good featurette which serves up the usual blend of movie clips and cast/crew comments along with just a little bit of behind-the-scenes footage.

Finally, The Rewrite's moderately appetizing trailer (2:24) is included.

The Blu-ray opens with menu-inaccessible trailers for Paradise, Goats, and Last Love.

The main menu offers a standard, scored montage. The Region A disc does not support bookmarking, but does resume unfinished playback.

No inserts or slipcover join the plain side-snapped blue keepcase, but the disc does sport a full-color label which differs from the cover artwork.

At the school bookstore where she works, middle-aged Binghamton University undergraduate Holly Carpenter (Marisa Tomei) shows to her screenwriting teacher (Hugh Grant) examples of life's "late bloomers."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Part of me appreciates that Hugh Grant is still making the types of movies he long has been. But judging from The Rewrite's virtually non-existent theatrical release, some reinvention might be in order. This predictable, mediocre outing offers adequate diversion, not far below Grant's average 6 out of 10 effort. Nonetheless, society and show business lament stagnation and it's impossible to define this movie as anything else for both Grant and his repeat writer-director Marc Lawrence.

Image Entertainment's Blu-ray Disc is fine, with both the feature presentation and the handful of extras qualifying as satisfactory. It's a disc I can easily recommend that those who have enjoyed Grant's signature romantic comedies giving a rental, but one that is no more worthy of one's time or money than dozens of less stale contemporaries.

Buy The Rewrite from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Hugh Grant: Did You Hear About the Morgans? Four Weddings and a Funeral The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Marisa Tomei: Cyrus Crazy, Stupid, Love. Wild Hogs | J.K. Simmons: Juno Labor Day Men, Women & Children Extract
Allison Janney: 10 Things I Hate About You Tammy Away We Go Trust Me | Bella Heathcote: Dark Shadows Not Fade Away In Time
Written by Marc Lawrence: Life with Mikey Family Ties: The Sixth Season
Teachers: To Sir, with Love Gentlemen Broncos The English Teacher Dead Poets Society Bad Teacher Smart People
Paradise The Kings of Summer Stuck in Love

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Reviewed March 29. 2015.



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