With "The Historian," writer-director-star Miles Doleac mines, with decided veracity, his experiences as an assistant professor at the
The movie, shot at Southern Miss, tracks the year-plus journey of Ben Rhodes (Doleac), a visiting university classics professor working under the watchful eyes of a budget-conscious dean (Glynnis O'Connor) and the humorless, bullying department chairman, Valerian Hadley (William Sadler).
For a supposedly smart guy, Rhodes makes some fairly dumb moves, particularly those involving his dual campus squeezes — hyper-bubbly grad student Anna (Jillian Taylor) and sultry professor Stacey (Leticia Jimenez) — as well as his mousy ex-wife (Vickie Hall).
Meanwhile, Hadley, a thoroughly miserable character if there ever was one, is the frustrated caregiver to his elderly father (
The film toggles between Rhodes' and Hadley's sporadically intersecting, often forced stories, rarely finding a satisfying focus or rhythm as things devolve into perfunctory melodrama.
The appealing Doleac, who also produced, acquits himself as an actor. But as a director, he shows a wobbly visual sense and an uneven hand with his cast, especially newcomer Taylor and the manic Colin Cunningham as a gonzo fellow historian. Veteran actors Sadler, Cullum and O'Connor do their best in formulaic roles but also could have used some firmer guidance.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes.