Mmegi Blogs :: Keep it moving at all costs
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Keep it moving at all costs

The English Teacher (2013) is now at the New Capitol Cinemas. It was released first in New York at the Tribeca Film Festival and then into cinemas in May and the DVD was out in August this year.
By Staff Writer Thu 31 Oct 2013, 13:35 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Keep it moving at all costs








It is a romantic comedy about a relationship between a teacher and her student – but not when he was her student. This flick features the teacher’s discovery of her protégé again, years later. It is a fun film, a bit over the edge, but still laughable. The problem is that it could so easily have been a lot better, this should have been the test and then it could have been remade before being released.

Plays have the benefit of going on the road, often with the dramatist too, who remains busy rewriting, and then when presented in the next town, rewriting again. They may even decide to change the ending. That is what becomes the bone of contention in The English Teacher. Most films do not have the benefit of audience inputs and constant presentation so that the final product is far better than what was done in the beginning. Instead, flicks are subject to editing and cutting after they have been filmed, but rarely are they made over, going back and filming more to achieve something better. Novelists have a similar problem as their work in progress must find closure and then go to the printer, or today to the digital library. Some authors years later will re-write an earlier novel, because they, over time, have seen how they can make it something they are happier with, new characters, new drama, even a different ending.Of the thousands of films made, very few get remade.

We are not talking about sequels here, the problem of movie-making in this century. The remakes end up costing more, with usually a new cast, new director and scriptwriter, new everything. This does not guarantee that they will become money-spinners. Linda Sinclair (acted by star Julianne Moore) is a 40-year-old stuck-in-a-rut English teacher at a high school in Kingston, Pennsylvania (all filmed at different locations in Westchester, New York State north of New York City). The film opens one evening at a dark ATM. Linda fears she is going to be robbed and pepper sprays Jason Sherwood (played by Michael Angarano), the failed author who has returned in self-imposed disgrace, depression and despair to Kingston. He supposedly is out to please his father Dr Tom Sherwood (a good Greg Kinnear), whom he claims wants him to become a lawyer, not a playwright. Thus the dramatic tension has been established. There is a triangle: Linda, Jason and Tom.But it takes more to make a ‘screwball dramedy’. A large cast of high school students in an elite drama class who gather to put on Jason’s play, Chrysalis, achieves this. Linda has read it and declared it a masterpiece.

The school’s drama teacher Carl (Nathan Lane) reads it and agrees. Oddly, the true nature of the

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subject of the movie, Chrysalis, remains beyond the ability of any audience to grasp. It remains ambiguous throughout. Though there is an occasional narrator, there is not really a play-within-the-play. The flick instead focuses beginning in Chapter Two on the backstage drama of nervous and vulnerable Linda, pompous Carl, and the egotistical writer-in-residence Jason. We now have a trio. From the cast of students two stand out; the attractive female lead in the play, succulent Halle Anderson (acted by Lily Collins, a young Elizabeth Taylor look-alike) and fat Will (Charlie Saxton) the male lead. Now we have a quintet. First problem is that the school’s principal, Trudie Slocum (Jessica Hecht) and vice-principal, Phil Pelaski (Norbert Leo Butz) must both approve the play before it can be produced. Once read, they find it unsuitable for a high school drama. A predictable film, but can you guess whom Linda will finally fall for?The school authorities prefer Our Town or any other American warhorse that is acceptable to parents, teachers and the community. Chrysalis is loaded with language, violence and all the characters die at the end. This is totally unacceptable. Solution? 

Jason must write a new ending. Action none. Linda and Carl commit themselves to a new ending, but simply fail to communicate to Jason, and suddenly a comedy of errors based on lies and deceptions and misconceptions begin. They know that Jason, a purist at heart, will never accept his text being changed that dramatically. This is really a film for people who love rehearsals and all the backstage shenanigans that go into making a drama. Some will also appreciate the red-inked text flashed on-screen at different moments, reflecting Linda’s notes to herself.The film treads between many others about spinster teachers and their emotional turmoil.

The best remains, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) Muriel Spark’s novel that was made into a play in 1966 and a movie in 1969 that earned Maggie Smith an Oscar.  Note the emphasis on Miss. There will always be teachers who live vicariously through their students. Is not that the name of the game? Hopefully the next generation can be better than me.

The English Teacher is one hour and 33 minutes long. It is rated 16+. The director is Craig Zisk. It is based on a script by Dan and Stacy Chariton, a married couple au fait with the dynamics of Broadway theatre and they inject it into the flick. The cinematographer is Vanja Cernjul. The editor is Myron Kerstein. The music is by Rob Simonsen.

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