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You know when you get that “getting old” feeling — it’s when the film stars you once used to love and revere in sizzling love stories and action-packed melodramas of the late 20th century now appear in stories about aging parents, layoffs, sickness, bankruptcy, foreclosures and other stuff in life that’s rapidly encroaching on one’s own reality.

This is why I hope Hugh Grant will be around forever and ever, dispensing snide upperclass English witticisms whether he still has some Grant-brand charm left or not. In “The Rewrite,” that charm is all but depleted — Grant is a shadow of his former self, but the power to spoof his own has-been handsomeness soars to peak levels.

You get the feeling he’s actually glad to be out of the rut of walking into a room and being the best-looking man there, of having to woo women on and off the screen and have them dissolve in a puddle of adoring goo at his feet and all that. As Gerard Depardieu once told me, “Age is a glorious liberator. At last, I don’t have to do love scenes any more.”

The Rewrite (Re:Life)
Rating
Run Time 107 mins
Language English
Opens NOv 20

Grant is now in his mid-50s and makes no attempt to hide it. A certified dreamboat in 1995, he now comes off as a very bitter, extremely dry martini in a chipped glass, no olive. In “The Rewrite,” he’s out-of-job screenwriter Keith Michaels, whose last moment of triumph came 15 years ago with an Oscar win.

However, after a long string of flops he’s now down to zero prospects and no income, and when his agent (played by Caroline Aaron, another blast of nostalgia from the ’90s) calls with a teaching job at an obscure college in up state New York, he has no choice but to say yes — though the mere thought sends him sprinting to the nearest bar to wallow in self-pity.

Once he arrives at the college, Keith decides to take things in his stride, first by ticking off Jane Austen devotees at a faculty party, and next by filling his screenwriting class with good-looking female students and a handful of male nerd types.

Based on a personal belief that “nothing worth knowing can ever be taught,” Keith dismisses his class for a month, though he’s plenty happy to give lectures to the prettiest girl, Karen (Bella Heathcote), in the privacy of his bedroom, of course. Naturally, faculty members are more than miffed. Keith’s superviser Dr. Lerner (J.K. Simmons) tries to take him through the 12-step shift from outdated celebrity to toeing-the-line academic, but Keith is in no mood to play along.

What it takes for Keith to see the light is, of course, a woman. Marisa Tomei plays Holly, a working-class single mother who honestly wants to write and will even endure sitting through Keith’s classes if he’ll give a few solid pointers.

Initially, Keith’s not interested — Holly is too mature, smart and formidable. Soon enough, though, he falls for her and Holly becomes one of the main reasons he decides to stick around and give the whole teaching thing a go. That, and the joy of sharing knowledge and experience.

This is the sort of role Grant can play hurtling through space while strapped to a plastic seat, and when you get to a certain age, there’s something to be said for a movie with no plot twists or sudden surprises — only the comforting confirmation that Hugh Grant is doing his thing.

Intriguingly, Keith seems to have a good time not when he’s with the adorable Holly, but with the stern, older department head Mary Weldon (Allison Janney).

Appearing in the suits that could only have been purchased at Harrods and exuding critical disapproval from every pore, Mary seems to stimulate the jaded Keith like no one else.

Now that’s the mark of a true Englishman.

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