When a former student of Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore), a reclusive yet passionate English teacher, arrives back in town after failing as a playwright in the big smoke, she sets out to kick-start his career in theatre production.
Craig Zisk’s fluffy US comedy takes great pains to highlight the quirky isolation of its titular character during its opening scenes, by showing her lonely nights in stacking up endlessly over the decades. Her life is her job and there appears to be nothing extraneous to this. However, Sinclair’s belief in her usefulness as a teacher comes into crisis when Jason (Michael Angarano), a former star student, returns from New York disillusioned at his inability to crack the theatre circuit.
Eager to see him succeed, she sets in motion plans for a high school production of his ambitious play entitled “The Chrysalis”. These plans sit at odds with Jason’s strict father Dr. Sherwood (Greg Kinnear) who wants his son to give up his dreams of being a playwright and pursue a law degree.
As tensions between the Dr. Sherwood and Miss. Sinclair begin to grow The English Teacher sinks further and irredeemably further into pure distilled mediocrity and tedium. No awards here for guessing how their relationship ends up. Lumbered on top of this tiresome narrative arc, we have an equally uninteresting relationship develop between Jason and the leading lady of the play.
As if this weren’t enough Nathan Lane is dropped into the middle of proceedings to do what he always has and apparently always will do – playing a camp extrovert with more than a penchant for the theatrical. It’s yet another unnecessary cliché that drags the film down. One gets the impression that there’s an OK film tucked away in here somewhere. Unfortunately it’s suffocated into obscurity by the almost bafflingly recurrent strands of predictability.
The English Teacher has its heart in the right place, but falls into the traps of conventionality with alarming frequency. It felt a little like tucking into a bowl of value vanilla ice cream, initially seeming like a good idea, but turning out to be a bland sugary mess that’s not particularly good for you. If this film teaches us anything, it is that it is a forgettable cinematic experience.
The English Teacher is out on DVD on Monday 3rd March, 2014.