Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) is The English Teacher, living and working in smalltown America. Passionate about her subject and her students, she lives a simple life and since childhood has been devoted to books above all else (yes, including men).
This accounts for the tedious voice over — straight from the pages of Little Women — that immediately marks this slight comedy of errors and manners as an entry in the canon of American Twee.
Linda’s life is turned upside down when a former student and now failed New York playwright Jason (Michael Angarano) returns to the small Pennsylvania town with broken dreams and an unwanted script.
Linda thinks it’s great, persuades a reluctant Jason that the high school should put it on and before you can say “positions please” Linda’s prim life of chaste austerity is cast aside in place of wanton desk sex with the recidivist creative.
Naturally this leads to all sorts of hijinks, misunderstandings, tears and redemption with the play’s cast (including leading lady and little drummer girl Lily Collins) and Jason’s overbearing father (the ever careworn Greg Kinnear) with the will-they-won’t-they moving swiftly from illicit loving to actually getting Jason’s play staged.
Julianne Moore, as Linda, goes through the motions and emotions but she has little chemistry with the unappealing Angarano and a grim predictability about the plot. Light relief from Nathan Lane as the school’s drama queen drama teacher can only carry proceedings so far.
Director Craig Zisk is a U.S. TV alumnus, working on Weeds and Nurse Jackie among others, and the spirit of American drama-com infests The English Teacher. Supporting characters are lightly drawn and lack nuance, while dialogue grates the teeth. The feel-good finale is telegraphed from the get-go.
All in all, this is inconsequential fare. There will be no curtain call, no move to Broadway.