Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2013. Artina Films, Mirabelle Pictures Productions, Mirabelle Pictures, Procinvest Sas. Screenplay by Dan Chariton, Stacy Chariton. Cinematography by Vanja Cernjul. Produced by Naomi Despres, Ben LeClair, Robert Salerno. Music by Rob Simonsen. Production Design by Michael Shaw. Costume Design by Emma Potter. Film Editing by Myron I. Kerstein.
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 (Michael Angarano) 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 (Nathan Lane), 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 Fiona Shaw 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 Lily Collins (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.