The English Teacher Review – It Was the Best of Times; It Was the Worst of Times

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The English Teacher,” the comedy/drama from Inferno Entertainment and Artina Films Production, brings to the screen a charming dark tale of love, romance, fleeting passions, and literature.

Directed by Craig Zisk, “The English Teacher” has an all star cast including Julianne Moore, Nathan Lane, Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins and Michael Argarano, with great supporting performances from Jessica Hecht and Hobert Leo Butz.

Kingston, Pennsylvania, nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny’s, a gentle suburban town devoid of drama, where most everyone knows everyone and life is quaint, quiet and tranquil is where we meet Linda Sinclair, a conservative advanced English Literature teacher played by Julianne Moore who is unfortunately described, in a Victorian accented voice over provided by Fiona Shaw, as a “spinster.” Alas, a modern woman tossed by the tempest of time and shackled by archaic beliefs of society, her own muted existence and a romantic love of great literature.

The English Teacher” could be considered a chick film, as we ride Linda Sinclair’s roller coaster of dating, as she silently, and provided on screen by the proverbial red pen of correction, grades her hopefuls. None of course, match the literature versions of windswept epiphanies paired with the explosive rendezvous which results in the realizations of love, a love meant for the ages, complete with a pause in the earth’s rotation as time stands still.

Meeting a former student, through a disastrous encounter, Linda Sinclair finds herself with the opportunity to bring fresh, innovated literature, an opportunity to wake up sleepy hollow, to rekindle the flame of passion and as if a life line has been cast, in desperation, she grabs hold. 

Jason Sherwood, played by Michael Angarano, a successful Kingston High School graduate who, as we are told by a very proud, Ms. Sinclair, “a graduate of the Dramatic Writing Program at NYU” shows up one cold dark night. The ravages and rejections of the trade have weathered the youthful soul which once held promise, as he limped back home, a NYU graduate with his thesis play, to his physician father, played by Greg Kinnear, a very chiseled and handsome, and to outsiders, a one note, unsupportive, distant and cold.

Nathan Lane joins the ensemble as the much loved drama teacher, Carl Kapinas, who is, when we meet him, of course, transported by the freshness of art and ready to burst into the ladies room to find Ms. Sinclair as the two, ecstatic by promise, join forces to have the play, “The Chrysalis” produced.  

Kapinas’ great inspiration is, of course, the master of the modern play David Mamet, whom he quotes. With the fondest memories of his own hopeful dreams of becoming a lauded Broadway thespian he retells his Steven Sondheim audition tale, to his wide eyed and absorbent students who are awed. His nurtured crop of actors include Halle Anderson played by Lily Collins, Fallon Hughes, played by Sophie Curtis, Will Traynor, played by Charlie Sexton and  Sheila Nussbaum played by Nikki Blonsky. 

As good art often brings the release of unexpected emotions, with all players reacting differently, the production of “The Chrysalis” becomes a nightmare.  A momentary indiscretion, an eruption of theatrical passion, becomes the catalyst for 21st century maliciousness, bullying, complete with I-Pad recorded invasions.

Our concern and disgust over the course of actions led by Halle, the ingénue of “The Chrysalis” becomes the path to Linda Sinclair’s personal emancipation.

Dissecting “The English Teacher” the next morning, after allowing my own thoughts to gel, I must admit I found the middle section very disturbing.

A younger woman may have been destroyed and contemplated suicide over the revelations and harsh realities of the situation. It is surprising, as Hollywood usually takes a stand against this type of hate, that it would be included and possibly with a stronger woman, Ms. Moore, suffering, to send a message. Either way it is distressing given the recent rash of bullying induced suicides.

Nathan Lane, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest comedic talents to bridge the 20th and 21st centuries. Whether over the top, laugh till your sides hurt, or more restrained, sedate, humor he is irrepressibly funny in every performance and “The English Teacher” is no different.

Dan Chariton and Stacy Chariton, the authors of “The English Teacher,” have written an appealing script, with genuine emotions, contemporary situations and engaging dialogue. Unfortunately, “The English Teacher” has a few notable absences that through creative license or directorial cuts didn’t make it to screen and yet are included in the introduction. Ms. Sinclair is described as a woman with cats; unfortunately there isn’t any evidence of the Siamese cat described. No purchase of cat food, as she is described as frugal and several grocery store scenes enforce her lifestyle. And also the notion of her small apartment, a half house duplex, doesn’t fit the shabby, described idea, I guess from my days living in New York City, the expectation of shabby is, dark, dreary, unappealing, which, in fact, in “The English Teacher” is just the opposite.

Possibly life may mirror art and all women who have reached a certain age, seemingly satisfied with career choices and life decisions are labeled silently by those around them with the “S” of singlehood.

The English Teacher” provides a full circle opportunity of understanding as the introduction speaks of sacrificing acts of selflessness and is even recognized by the advanced English literature students and, of course, when they had the opportunity to live out the lesson of literature they all failed miserably.

"The English Teacher" is produced by Naomi Despres, Bob Salerno, Ben LeClair, Matthew Chausse and premiered recently at The Tribeca Film Festival.

"The English Teacher" is a chick film with a twist. The all star cast bring their "A" game to this contemporary dramady. A fun, somewhat distressing, and hopeful film. See it!

The English Teacher” opens everywhere May 17, 2013.


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