It’s far from perfect, but “The Rewrite” is the kind of witty, enjoyable star vehicle in sadly short supply on screens these days.
Writer-director Marc Lawrence expertly tailors an engaging lead role here for the puckish charms of frequent collaborator Hugh Grant (“Two Weeks Notice,” “Music and Lyrics”), who plays Keith Michaels, an Oscar-winning screenwriter past his expiration date.
Unable to land any scripting job (OK, really?), Keith’s chummy agent (Caroline Aaron) finds him a gig teaching screenwriting in a galaxy far, far away from L.A.: upstate New York’s Binghamton University (Lawrence’s alma mater). Desperate for work, Keith jets east.
To no viewer’s great surprise, Keith, who’s divorced with an estranged son, will go from bad teacher to revered professor as he bungles his way through the demands of academia, finding himself in the process.
He’ll have help from late-blooming coed and single mom Holly (Marisa Tomei, always welcome), several genial fellow faculty members (J.K. Simmons, Chris Elliott) and a quirky gaggle of undergrads. There’s requisite pushback, however, from a comely student (Bella Heathcote) with whom he’s had an ill-conceived affair as well as from the school’s humorless Jane Austen scholar and ethics committee chair (Allison Janney).
If Keith’s journey wasn’t so darned amusing, the movie’s many gaps in logic might be unforgivable. (The realities of university procedure, not to mention the nuances of show business, are largely out the window.) Still, though it may not rewrite any film industry mandates, this one’s a fun throwback to a time when less could be more.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena. Also on VOD.