Movie review: Rom-com The Rewrite needs a rewrite

A jaded-looking Hugh Grant with the cheery Marisa Tomei in The Rewrite. -- PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION
A jaded-looking Hugh Grant with the cheery Marisa Tomei in The Rewrite. -- PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

Review Romantic comedy

THE REWRITE (PG13)

107 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**1/2

The story: Screenwriter Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) once had it all - a loving family by his side, a hit movie under his belt and a Golden Globe on his resume. But after failing continually to recreate the success of his only hit movie, he has no choice but to move out of Hollywood to take on a teaching job at a small-town university instead. He does not take the job seriously until he meets sunny mature student Holly (Marisa Tomei).

Two decades after Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994), Hugh Grant is still doing the awkward but cute Englishman routine. Fortunately, he is not deluded enough to believe that he is also the dapper 30something of the 1990s who can charm the pants off many women with just a grin and a toss of his famous floppy fringe.

This is an older, more wrinkly and weary-looking Grant, one who is long past his prime - which he knows and even embraces.

As screenwriter Keith Michaels here, he has a particularly poignant scene where he watches a video clip of his younger, more arrogant self accepting a Golden Globe for screenwriting.

Sitting alone in his room with no jobs, no friends and shunned by his ex-wife and son, he realises how sad his life has become, even if strangers continually come up to him to tell him how much they love his claim-to-fame work, Paradise Misplaced - whose title clearly references the character's current situation and maybe even Grant's.

It is as if the actor was playing a more jaded version of himself, a guy who was once Hollywood's hottest property but is now getting by only on nostalgic audiences.

Like his earlier romantic comedies Two Weeks Notice (2002), Music & Lyrics (2007) and the terrible Did You Hear About The Morgans? (2009) - all of which he worked on with director Marc Lawrence - everything about The Rewrite is predictable, safe and, well, in dire need of a rewrite.

It is a little ironic, given that Keith goes on to teach students about breaking screenwriting conventions.

Still, The Rewrite does offer the occasional witty moment, helped by one-liners from the always reliable J.K. Simmons as the weepy head of the English department and Allison Janney as the caustic professor and Jane Austen addict.

The effervescent Marisa Tomei, though grossly underwritten here, is her usual likeable self as Keith's unlikely love interest, the optimistic older student who helps him get his life back on track.

But who will help Grant get his career back on track?

Yip Wai Yee