THE ENGLISH TEACHER (NC16)
DURATION: 91 minutes
Opens on 12th September
The story: Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) is a high school English teacher in a small town. When a former student Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) comes back with an unproduced play, she decides to rope in frustrated drama teacher Carl Kapinas (Nathan Lane) to put it on. And this puts her on a collision course with Jason's father (Greg Kinnear).
At its core, The English Teacher is a character study.
Linda Sinclair is someone who has come to accept her place in life. She might never meet the right man - her dates constantly fail to make the grade - but at least she is shaping lives with her classes.
And when the opportunity comes to help a former student whom she believes is talented, she charges to the fore. She even tangles with the father, who seems more keen to have his son pursue law studies.
She has good intentions but things start to snowball and spin out of control, both with the play and her own personal life.
It is a role that can go quite dark but Craig Fisk, making his film directorial debut here, goes for more of a comic tone.
And accordingly, Julianne Moore, who has played characters in emotional pain in such films as The Hours (2002) and Far From Heaven (2002), turns in a performance here that is sunnier than usual.
But the film might have been more interesting if Zisk had pushed it more. As it is, it feels rather lightweight and the ending too neat and tidy.
Remember that one student in class who always raised his or her hands and wanted to impress the teacher? The English Teacher is, in some respects, that eager beaver who tries a little too hard.
Take the voiceover, which gives the film something of a literary air. Fair enough, given the protagonist is an English teacher and the fact that it revolves around a play. But then the voiceover becomes a strained gimmick at the film's end as the narrator finds the story getting away from her.
There is also a little inside joke about Carl Kapinas' failed audition for musical titan Stephen Sondheim.
It might raise a smile if you know that Nathan Lane has, in fact, worked with the man in shows such as A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Otherwise, it is merely an anecdote that is not particularly funny.
A teacher might comment of this film: Needs more work.
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