Hugh Grant has the dependable charm of the cliché British leading man, and it’s nice to see that he has managed, at times, to go against this stereotypically written role. But it’s always nice to plunge back into what made him so enjoyable in the first place, and by the looks of The Re-Write, even Hugh Grant knows this. From director Marc Lawrence, a man who has exclusively worked with Grant, you’d not be surprised that their fourth and final pairing together brings about some of the strongest romcom tropes, bringing them out for one last trip down predictable memory lane.
But sometimes that’s exactly the type of film you need, and The Re-Write should definitely be written off as a mediocre piece of film that does nothing to show us the strengths of its supporting cast members, no matter how talented they are. J.K. Simmons appears in this, winning an Oscar the same year for his pivotal and perfect role in Whiplash. His role in The Re-Write is obviously small, but that doesn’t stop it from being some truly enjoyable fun. Although contained to just a handful of scenes, Simmons is given some of the better throwaway lines of the piece, leading to some nice breaks in the steady and predictable main plotline.
Perhaps the best part of The Re-Write is in fact its side plots. Anything that can keep us away from the generic “will they, won’t they?” standings of the plotline between Grant and Marisa Tomei is a godsend. Their chemistry isn’t even that bad, it’s just awkwardly predictable in a way that teenage romcoms are. It feels lacking in innovation, which is fair enough if the audience are invested along the way, but The Re-Write doesn’t try to give us anything effective enough to care for this dynamic. It’s incredibly lucky then that Tomei and Grant are two great performers, and it does feel like it’s worth it to wade through all the uselessly unfocused plot derivatives to get to the core of their solid leading roles.
Grant thrives more in his chemistry with the students he teaches though. Starring as Keith Michaels, an Oscar winning screenwriter that finds himself down on his luck and in a state of writer’s block, takes up a film writing position at a college on the East Coast. It’s your typical styling of the “leading character must find themselves”, and Grant is no stranger to this role. His ditsy, typical performance works real wonders here; the occasions he can blend charming and bumbling together in that bittersweet fashion is truly remarkable.
But that is in fact the only real positive of the film, one that Grant manages to carry the whole way through the running time. Grueling at times, rewarding at others, a real mixed bag at times, a film that manages to catch you on a good day will be thoroughly enjoyable. The Re-Write suffers greatly from the one thing keeping it interesting, and for that reason alone it can be nothing more than forgettably light filler. Enjoyable, but not worthy of real analysis, praise or much else.