Spineless. The English Teacher is a Julianne Moore as spinster movie that could have gone for subtle and introspective instead of broad and witless farce which it wanes into. Ms. Linda Sinclair is losing faith after going on a series of bad blind dates (ha!). Moore nearly has a breakthrough, multi-layered character to work with. But no wiggle room with this tepid script. Ms. Sinclair runs into former student Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) and wants to produce his play and have a bad romance with him, in one order or another. The play gets produced at the high school she teaches, but has barely won approval by the principal and vice principal. Ms. Sinclair and Jason have a one-time fling, and a (small-time) scandal breaks-out. Sex on school grounds? Wowser. Too bad it’s handled all so run-of-the-mill.
Nathan Lane is the school’s drama teacher and theater director, but he loses reigns on the play’s production. Such fuss! Such clash of egos! Lily Collins is the girl who steals away Jason, and becomes Ms. Sinclair’s competition (Remember Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon’s face-off in “Election?”). Greg Kinnear, doing his most generic mannerisms to date, is Jason’s father Dr. Tom Sherwood. The most abysmal thing about the movie is the budding love story between Ms. Sinclair and Dr. Tom. Forget about Ms. Sinclair’s desperation. Somebody holler at Dr. Tom and jeer him for his low standards.
That’s right, Dr. Sherwood is completely aware that Ms. Sinclair slept with his son. But I guess he endorses liberal dating in these modern times (it must be the low self-esteem Greg Kinnear syndrome). This is the secondary plot anyway. The first plot comprises the complications of Jason’s subversive play, and whether the curtain will undrape for public presentation before school controversy blacklists it. Effective comedy could have congealed with Moore playing a mousy loser who gets in touch with her own libinous juices while nearing menopause. No surprises, however, in this 100% predictable lukewarm tale.
93 Minutes. Rated R.
ROMANTIC COMEDY / MINDLESS PLEASURES / FRIDAY NIGHT SUCKFEST
Film Cousins: “Marty” (1955); “Rachel, Rachel” (1968); “Election” (1999); “Laws of Attraction” (2004).