THE ENGLISH TEACHER (Craig Zisk). 93 minutes. Opens Friday (May 31). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
The English Teacher is what happens when someone sees an Alexander Payne movie and thinks, "Hey, I should do something like that." The problem is, Craig Zisk is no Alexander Payne.
In Election, Sideways and The Descendants, Payne declared himself a master of the middle-aged panic dramedy. The English Teacher treads similar ground, but not nearly as well.
Julianne Moore plays Linda Sinclair, an upstate New York high school teacher who's allowed herself to ossify into isolated singlehood. She's jolted out of her rut when she runs into former student Jason (Michael Angarano) and decides the school should stage his brilliant play - much to the confusion of Jason's disapproving father (Greg Kinnear).
Having established that premise, the script - by Dan Chariton and Stacy Chariton - throws in a dozen or so complications, none of which pan out. (Watching the characters played by Kinnear and Lily Collins radically redefine themselves every 10 minutes is kind of fascinating but not exactly entertaining.)
I'll watch Moore in just about anything (*cough* Blindness *cough*), but Zisk's floppy direction gives her nothing on which to hang a character. And the Charitons' use of intermittent third-person narration (by Fiona Shaw) feels like a literary flourish neither they nor Zisk fully understand.