Sometimes movies have all the right ingredients to be great, but the final product is somewhat lacking. The English Teacher is one such film. A great cast (Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, Michael Angarano and Nathan Lane) and a concept with potential fails to work. The cast can’t be blamed for not trying, but they’re let down by a film that feels so light and breezy that it hardly exists at all – and that’s a shame.
Julianne Moore is Linda Sinclair, the film’s titular teacher, a literature lover who finds all the romance she needs in the pages of her favourite books. She leaves a quiet and lonely life until she meets Angarano’s Jason, a former pupil and failed playwright. Linda decides to make Jason’s play the latest school performance, aided by Nathan Lane’s kooky and camp drama teacher. Jason’s father (Kinnear) is against said performance, believing his son should find a proper career and things are further complicated when Linda and Jason take their relationship off the page and into the bedroom. Hilarity is supposed to ensue – but it doesn’t.
The failure of The English Teacher falls squarely on the shoulders of director Craig Zisk and writers Dan and Stacy Chariton, aided and abetted by composer Rob Simonsen. The film just skips along with no weight, drama or consequence, while the jingle-jangly score (one of the most grating in recent memory) is screaming to remind us that this is a comedy. Zisk doesn’t know how to balance tone; everything is running on neutral without caring about how to engage his audience. Even the play at the centre of the film appears to be superficial, and you have to wonder what the big deal about it is.
Performance-wise, everyone does what they are asked to do: Moore plays-up the comedy hysterics, while everyone hits their mark. Kinnear and Collins (both so good in Stuck in Love) are under-utilised and they could have been the saving grace of the film if they had been given something to do.
It’s frustrating when a film with talent fails. This isn’t a big special effects blockbuster where everyone is doing this for the cash – people were obviously engaged with something here (or were called in as favours), so it’s a shame that the finished product is so uninteresting. There’s nothing wrong with The English Teacher on a technical level, it’s just simply as uninteresting as its title.
The English Teacher’s report reads ‘must do better’.