You may have heard Hollywood is a tough place for women and people of color. But writer/director/Hugh Grant parasite Marc Lawrence would have you believe the group really suffering to succeed in Hollywood are straight white men, like the hero of his latest Grant vehicle—following such stunners as Music and Lyrics and Did You Hear About The Morgans?—The Rewrite.
Here Grant stars as Keith Michaels, who can’t seem to sell his pitch for a story about an old white man—maybe played by Jack Nicholson!—because women and people of color run Hollywood and all they want are “edgy comedies about kick-ass women.” (Uh huh.) What’s a screenwriting dude to do? Keith’s an Oscar-winning scribe yet he gets no respect so must take a teaching job (the indignity of it all!) in a small town university in New York.
To be honest, if it weren’t for review duties, I’d have quit this movie five minutes in. But oh what I would have missed! There’s fifty-four-year-old Grant leering at and hitting on flocks of thin and pretty co-eds, mocking Jane Austen’s contributions to literature ( how meta!), and his unleashing of this doozy bit of dialogue, “Oh, forgive me. I’m just a little tired of ‘female empowerment.’…Everything seems to be about female empowerment nowadays…Can I tell you what would be really innovative? A movie without a kick-ass girl!”
And all this before the 20-minute mark!
That was about when I started wondering who this movie is for. I mean, typically romantic comedies are targeted at female audiences. Hugh Grant built his career in the genre on the bucks of countless crushing ladies from around the world. But then The Rewrite spends so much time describing Hollywood through some deranged MRA lens while setting up Keith’s “unlikely” love interest Holly, a 40-something college sophomore (Marisa Tomei) who is beautiful, spirited, smart but did I mention she’s 40-something? Why pick her when he could bang the bespectacled Bella Heathcote, who can’t drink legally but is down for casual sex? Nonetheless, Holly—despite her implied decrepitude—guides him to be a less shit human being.
The trouble is: I’d rather see Grant’s irredeemable douchebag die in a fire than find redemption through romance. Wildly, there’s a moment where the script seems to realize it’s gone too far making its anti-hero not just flawed, but FUBAR. So, we get an actual lecture (from Keith to a female student, naturally) about how characters with flaws make for great movie characters, and we should love them. Especially when they are flawed men.
So on the romance front, this rom-com was nothing but insanely infuriating.
Making matters worse, The Rewrite brings such stellar scene-stealers as J.K. Simmons, Chris Elliot and Allison Janney into its train wreck, and gives them nothing worthwhile (save for their paychecks). As a movie about screenwriting, it’s almost funny how many lectures on plot and character we’re subject to that could have been better applied to the script itself, which is loaded with thinly written stereotypes like Star Wars geek, angry goth chick, and vapid sorority girl.
The thing is, Marisa Tomei is sort of enchanting here. She’s radiant with charm, whether she’s dancing barefoot with a pair of dark haired daughters, or coaching Keith in how not to be an utter ass-hat. But it’s cold comfort when so much of The Rewrite reads like a deranged treatise about how hard it is to be a straight, white man in a world that is apparently overrun by women and people of color just trying to keep the man down.
If the conceit of that isn’t enough to induce a rage headache, maybe The Rewrite won’t sicken you to your core. As for me, I’m going to try to forget this movie completely so that the sheer sight of Hugh Grant won’t reduce me to teeth-gnashing and shrieks of uncivilized expletives.
Kristy Puchko really, really, really hated The Rewrite.