Director: Craig Zisk
Cast: Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear, Michael Angarano, Nathan Lane, Lily Collins, Fiona Shaw, Norbert Leo Butz
Watch The English Teacher online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
When high school English teacher Linda Sinclair (Moore) bumps into a former star student Jason Sherwood (Angarano), she learns he didn’t make his mark on Broadway as expected, and that Jason’s father (Greg Kinnear) would prefer his son to study law. Encouraging Linda takes it upon herself to read Jason’s play.
Revitalised after reading, she steamrolls the school into putting on a production and, against everyone’s better judgement, they rubber stamp the deal.
With the school production in full swing, the drama teacher Carl Kapinas (Lane) goes into meltdown; Jason enjoys his new found attention a little too much, and things go from bad to worse for poor Linda, who in truth brought this whole saga upon herself.
And herein lies the problem with The English Teacher: despite the clear talent of the cast, the characters feel inauthentic and flat. It never really gets out of second gear.
Sadly, there are too few scenes with Moore and Kinnear, which could have added depth to the story. And so Angarano, most widely recognised for his role as Elliott, Jack’s son in Will and Grace, has a hill to climb to getting the audience onside. Jason isn’t particularly likeable either, nor do we have much empathy for a boy-man lacking in drive and direction.
The film relies heavily on physical comedy and clichés. With the writers and first time feature director Craig Zisk (Weeds, Scrubs, The Big C) both coming from television, it was a risk that could have paid off – but, on this occasion, it didn’t.
If you’re into amateur dramatics or work in a school, you might find this a pleasant sojourn, but maybe like Linda, you’re better off picking up a copy of Pride & Prejudice instead.