Once upon a time, Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant - About a Boy, Love Actually) was an award-winning Hollywood screenwriter, but divorce and a string of unsuccessful films have left him with nothing but bad debts and blank pages. So when his agent arranges a job as guest screenwriting professor at a remote university in upstate New York, a desperate Keith can’t say no. Initially hoping to give minimal effort to actual teaching so he can focus on his next script, Keith unexpectedly finds himself becoming invested in his students lives, including Holly (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler), a single mom looking to start her own new chapter. The Rewrite features an all-star cast, including J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), Allison Janney (“Mom”), Chris Elliott (Groundhog Day) and Bella Heathcote (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).
Ever feel like you've seen the new movie you're currently watching? The romantic comedy genre is a hard area to work in, there are certain expectations that a romantic comedy is already burdened with, certain plot beats that need to be hit. Because of these expectations, it becomes that much harder for a new romantic comedy to be unique, find that hook that sets it apart. While 'The Rewrite' may not be the most original or unique romantic comedy out there, that doesn't keep it from being an enjoyable watch.
Keith Michaels, Hugh Grant, is a burned out, floundering once Oscar-winning screenwriter who is forced to take a job teaching screenwriting at a prestigious upstate New York university. To call him a fish out of water would be a bit of an understatement. Within his first 24 hours he's committed any number of social faux pas including sleeping with one of his students, Bella Heathcote, and insulting the head of the ethics committee, Allison Janney, the one woman who decides whether or not he remains employed through the term.
Helping him along through his bumpy start is Dr. Lerner, the always welcome J.K. Simmons, fellow professor and neighbor Jim, Chris Elliot. While already being in a relationship with one student, Keith strikes up a friendship with another female student Holly, Marisa Tomei. As a man who more or less has bumbled his way through life thus far avoiding real responsibility at the expense of his estranged ex-wife and son, here Keith finds responsibility and ultimately his niche in life teaching his students to dig deep within themselves to find their voice and become actual people in their own right, and not just shadows of the characters they create.
Like I said before, this is a pretty familiar sounding story. We've seen these actors play these characters before, to talk about their arcs or motivations would be relatively pointless. We've seen these plot beats a dozen times at minimum. We're pretty sure of the outcome of the movie long before the ending arrives, but that doesn't necessarily keep 'The Rewrite' from being a half-way fun ride. Working in this movie's favor is the cast. Sure, we've seen them in these roles, but they're comforting and welcoming familiar faces who do a great job with the witty dialogue they're given. Then you have Writer/Director Marc Lawrence's script, which again. while predictable, is fun and entertaining and it doesn't quite fall into all of the expected genre pitfalls that it could have.
As a movie unto itself, I have to say that I did enjoy 'The Rewrite,' in part because I could relate to the awkward 'Star Wars' nerd taking his first writing class, but also because it was just a nice pleasant movie. Is this movie an example of first class writing and directing? Maybe not, but it's solid serviceable entertainment, and there's nothing wrong with that. Part of the reason why certain genres have specific conventions that are difficult if not impossible to break is because they work. As much as people profess to long for original content, the truth of the matter is a lot of the time they're really just looking for a Big Mac. They want something they've had before but is somehow new because they're getting it from a different McDonalds restaurant. Keeping with the hamburger analogy, 'The Rewrite' may not be the most nutritious film out there, but it's still pretty good and makes for a nice piece of date night entertainment.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Rewrite' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Image Entertainment on a BD50 Disc. Housed in a standard Blu-ray case, the disc opens to a series of trailers for upcoming releases before reaching the main menu.
'The Rewrite' boasts a serviceable 1080p 2.40:1 presentation. Given the drab, fall-like rainy scenery, don't expect much in the way of color pop for much of the film. Flesh tones are strong, no one looks sickly pale or like they've spent an afternoon in the sun. Detail is strong here offering a nicely detailed image, especially in midrange and closeup shots. Black levels are also strong here, especially shadows since this story takes place in the fall, there are a lot of grays and shadows helping to add some depth to a relatively flat image due to tight-spaced filming locations. Scenes at the resturant or faculty functions offer a lot more light and depth to appreciate the image quality. For the most part this is a fine presentation, but it's hardly demo material.
Faring better for 'The Rewrite' is the strong and robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. For a relatively quiet and soft romantic comedy the surround channels actually get to see some action here. Scenes in the restaurant or the college book store have a pleasant amount of ambient sound working the channels giving these scenes a nice sense of atmosphere and imaging. Levels are just fine as the film is mostly dialogue dominated, you never have to struggle to hear a character speak, nor are there much in the way of competing sound effects or music to tax your system. For a quiet comedy this is a fine audio track.
Deleted Scenes: This is a pair of deleted scenes Guard Gate: 1:05, and Student Screenplays: 1:40. These were a series of running jokes that didn't quite land and were wise cuts since they wouldn't have added anything to the show.
The Making of The Rewrite: (HD 7:47) This is a quick little bit of EPK material that doesn't really offer a lot of insight into the movie itself.
Familiarity is an aspect of storytelling that can either work for or against a film. On one hand it's nice to have your expectations met, but on the other if there isn't anything surprising it can be kind of a let down. 'The Rewrite' may not be the finest, most innovative take on the romantic comedy genre, but it is heart-felt and entertaining. With a solid cast doing what they do best by playing to their character strengths, 'The Rewrite' becomes a welcome piece of entertainment. While it may not blow your hair back, it should put a smile on your face by the end of the movie. With a strong HD image and audio tracks, 'The Rewrite' is worth a look.