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The Rewrite is the latest film from writer-director Marc Lawrence (Music and Lyrics, Two Weeks Notice). It again reunites the filmmaker with actor Hugh Grant. The film is one of Lawrence's most thoughtful and moving efforts. Indeed, The Rewrite may actually be the crowning achievement of Lawrence's filmmaking career to date.
Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) used to be one of Hollywood's go-to screenwriters. He made a successful screenplay which became the film Paradise Misplaced and ultimately won him a Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Yet that was so many years ago. Keith now has trouble finding any script work (even re-writes) after a string of unsuccessful films and he's having trouble paying the bills. His agent soon brings good news, though: a successful university in New York wants for him to teach a screenwriting course at their university. As it stands as his last option (he is struggling with his finances and lack of work) Keith Michaels is now left to try something new (whether he wants to or not).
Upon starting his journey as a professor at the university, Keith meets a variety of interesting characters. Dr. Lerner (J.K. Simmons) is the dean of the university. He loves his family and children but has some reluctance to move to their vegetarian diet and finds quiet moments throughout the film to confide in Keith. Fellow instructor Jim (Chris Elliott) also becomes attached to Keith's energy and seeks his friendship and advice.
Yet the transition to being a successful instructor at the school has some road bumps. Keith must learn to work with and understand Mary Weldon (Allison Janney), who is a successful scholarly writer, professor, and head of the ethics committee. Weldon is also a huge Jane Austen fan who adores her writing and starts to clash with the new instructor right away (after an annoying and obnoxious incident in which Keith makes a fool of himself and insults Weldon and her beloved author Jane Austen). Keith also starts teaching on the wrong foot as he has a fling with student Karen (Bella Heathcote).
Over the course of the film, Keith becomes close with Holly (Marisa Tomei). Holly is a student around the same age as Keith. She is going to school to try and start anew while trying to raise her young daughters on her own. Holly wants to join his screenwriting course and gets in. She helps him start out his new career with helpful advice of her own and good question points to propose in class. Keith's teaching skills start off slow (on the first day of class he initially just sends everyone home to work on their script for a month before returning to class again). Can Keith become a late bloomer and find a new calling as a teacher or will he find that screenplay break he's been looking for?
Lawrence has done a great job with the film. He has compiled an exceptional cast of actors. In The Rewrite, the small parts are not wasted and are explored in interesting ways. This is partly because the script has so many great parts. Simmons get a lot of great lines and shines. Elliott capably makes his character feel more likeable and heartfelt. Janney brings both a seriousness and charm to her role.
As for Grant? He delivers one of the best performances of his career. He also excels largely in part because of his great on-screen chemistry with Marisa Tomei. Tomei brings the heart and soul of the film's message about "late bloomers" to life in a truly wonderful way. The Rewrite might not break new ground with its story but it does seem to work as one of the best films produced and released in the genre around. This makes it well worth watching for audiences capable of appreciating a great romantic-comedy gem when one does appear.
The Rewrite is presented on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The image is crisp, clean, and well-defined with an average bit-rate around 30mbps. The encoding quality is excellent throughout. The film has impressive visual aesthetics and looks splendid here. Colors are beautiful without ever being bold or over-emphasized. The cinematography by Jonathan Brown is well-suited to the story. Audiences will be pleased by how sleek and refined the film looks on Blu-ray.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is a simplistic one. It actually doesn't have much in the way of surround usage and is a unsurprisingly front-heavy mix (as is common in the comedy genre). This doesn't stop the Blu-ray release from having strong dialogue reproduction. This is a highly sufficient element of the presentation. The audio is certainly pleasing and it does benefit from having a lossless quality boost. Optional English SDH subtitles (for the deaf and hard of hearing) are also provided.
The release only includes a handful of brief supplements. Two deleted-scenes (featuring 3 min. of footage total) are included. These deleted moments show Keith attempting to have a quality conversation with a campus security guard (and failing to speak with him). The other deleted moments come from readings out of the scripts written by the student characters.
The Making of The Rewrite (8 min.) is a fairly standard behind-the-scenes piece about the film's creation, development. and production. The featurette includes some short clips from the film and interviews with writer-director Marc Lawrence, lead actor Hugh Grant, and others who became involved with the creation of the film.
Lastly, the original theatrical trailer is also provided.
The Rewrite is one of the best romantic comedies of the past several years. It's a shame that Hollywood doesn't seem to produce as many films in this style anymore. Grant delivers an exceptional performance that should end up ranking amongst his personal best as an actor. Anyone who has appreciated the other Lawrence-Grant collaborations should seek out this underrated gem.
The Blu-ray release of The Rewrite features strong video and audio and includes a small (but otherwise decent) assortment of extras. This release is absolutely worth picking up for fans.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.