Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"The English Teacher": a writer gets his play produced by his former high school, but with changes

The English Teacher” (2013, directed by Craig Zisk) was most interesting, for me, at least because it presents the problem if a writer, Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) getting his play produced.  This time, it’s by his former high school English teacher Miss Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore), still a spinster at 45 because she is a bit too judgmental of the men she meets.  Jason, at one point later, will compare himself to Jack Kerouac on Facebook.  

The earliest scenes, where Ms. Sinclair teaches “The Tale of Two Cities,” and shows her breeding with “Little Women” and “Our Town” are rather interesting.  There is even mention of “Iceman Cometh” – a man walks into a bar.   

Jason has come back to his hometown in the Poconos of PA when she meets Linda, who at first maces him at a bank ATM when she mistakes him for a robber.  She reads his NYU thesis play “The Chrysalis” and loves it, and sells the school on producing it, talking out of the corner of her mouth as to the cost and whether to subdue or tone down some of the more adult scenes.  “This isn’t Broadway” the assistant principal says, with an allusion to “Wicked”. Authors don’t like their plots to be changed, and the school doesn’t even tell him before he signs the contract. Pretty soon, the rewriting has to become a joint effort. After all, at the ending everybody kills themselves. 

Pretty soon the film starts running off the tracks, because it is a comedy, when Jason and Linda become intimate in empty classroom after Jason is upset over an encounter of his disapproving father (Greg Kinnear) who wanted him just to go to law school.

I’m not very convinced that some of this could happen in many schools today, given the heightened security.  Could Jason have walked into the school to push a play under the door?

The official site is here.

When the play “ends”, the audience calls for “author”.  But what writer wants to bow for what he didn’t write?

In the end, the kids get to try writing a new end to the Dickens novel.
When I substitute taught, I got to do theater several times.  I saw some real talent.  I’ve seen it with youth at a couple of local churches, too.

On this DVD, the deleted scene is important.  It is essentially a short silent (but garishly technicolored and customed) short film that tells the story of "The Chrysalis" including the troubling ending, which seems right. It bears the same relation to this film that the inner short film of "Judas Kiss" does to the feature (June 5, 2012). 
In the end, Jason writes for children.  That’s another irony. 

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