Hugh Grant pretty much plays his usual self in this movie, albeit a rather more lined, greyer version than we met in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. As Keith Michaels, a 'past his sell by date' screenwriter forced to take a job teaching screenwriting, Hugh Grant manages to bring both humour and poignancy to this story of re-discovering one's purpose in life.
There were laugh out loud funny moments, but I also had to dig a tissue out of my bag at the movie's climax. Yes, this is a rom com, but it's a whole lot more. This story has depth and, in spite of the usual sterotypes, it deals with issues that are universal: dealing with growing older, coming to terms with the loss of one's youth and dreams, and having to rewrite one's own life story.
The writer in me loved being able to watch an entire film set in a world so close to my heart. Experienced writers aren't going to learn much about the 'how to' of writing from this movie, but what Keith Michaels teaches to his class is 100% true. Considering how rare it is for Hollywood to 'get it right' that certainly makes for a pleasant change!
Newbie writers will definitely benefit from watching this movie, and not just because it teaches basics like 'what is a protagonist' and that characters need to learn and grow, but it demonstrates it too. Anyone who has read that 'bible' of screenwriting, Blake Snyder's Save the Cat, will know that The Rewrite hits every beat and ticks every box of a good screenplay.
Keith Michaels teaches his screenwriting class that characters must have goals. And indeed, every character in this story has a well-defined goal. He teaches that characters should be flawed - and indeed, they all are. He teaches that they need to overcome obstacles - and they do. And he teaches that they learn from their mistakes and become better people - and naturally, this being a romantic comedy, they do.
Another aspect of the movie that appealed to me was the way that screenwriting was viewed by the academics of the university where Hugh Grant's character goes to teach. In the beginning, movies are seen very much as the 'poor cousin' to literature, as the romance genre often is too. Yet as he teaches screenwriting, drawing on iconic movies we all know and love, we feel that passion for storytelling come alive. Romance, like movies, are primarily entertainment. No, it's not high art, but it appeals to something in us all, and has an equally valid place in our lives (and our universities!). The acceptance the screenwriter achieves at the university by the end of the movie is something I'd like to see happen for romantic literature too!
But the thing that appealed to me most about The Rewrite is that this isn't a story of a group of twenty or even thirty somethings finding love for the first time, as most rom coms are. Maybe I'm giving my own age away here, but I love a story I can relate to!
This is a movie about more mature characters who already have failed relationships behind them, and who've made mistakes; people who aren't in that first blush of youth and who aren't searching for 'that one true love'. These are very real people who realise that relationships are compromise and work, and yet that they're somehow worth it because a relationship with the right person supports us in becoming the best version of ourselves that we can be. Even jaded as I've become as I've grown older, this is still something I believe in!
Here's the trailer for the movie to whet your appetite: