The English Teacher (2013)

CRAIG ZISK

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5

USA, 2013.  , , , .  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .

Julianne Moore lives an ideal existence as an English teacher in a small town, her daily rituals pre-arranged right down to her sensible meals.  Her life veers off track when a former student () returns from the big city a failure as a playwright, forced by his narrow-minded father (Greg Kinnear) to apply for law school against his will.  When Moore reads her former star pupil’s script and decides it is a masterpiece, she teams up with the school’s drama teacher (), himself ruined by long-faded dreams of Broadway success, and they decide to stage Angarano’s work in an effort to promote creativity over conformity.  When Moore gets deep into production, most of which she is paying for out of her own pocket, and finds herself drawn into the young man’s world sexually as well as emotionally, she ends up tipping the scales of her sensible life to a dangerous degree.  This highly enjoyable tale would be so much better if it did not strike so many false notes: Julianne Moore as a hopeless spinster is a bit rich to be believed despite what a deft actress she is, and the play that Angarano writes never convinces you it would impress even the most desperately passionate reader.  Meanwhile, fairy-tale narration by  is at odds with some of the darker scenes of misery that pop up in the narrative, and amid the frumpy and adorable characters we have a few nasty characterizations, such as (giving a slim performance to say the least) as a selfish high school student who plays the ingénue in Angarano’s play and life.  There’s a cruel undercurrent to the lighter proceedings that feels perpetually uncomfortable, but the buoyancy of its funnier moments at least convinces you to stick with it until the end, and Kinnear’s few scenes are terrific.

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