Romantic-comedy formula is given a feeble meta twist in The Rewrite, in which a once-famous Hollywood screenwriter reluctantly takes a teaching gig in Binghamton, New York, and -- cue funny misadventures involving colorful locals — rediscovers his voice. As with his three prior directorial efforts, Marc Lawrence's film is a vehicle for Hugh Grant, who as struggling scribe Keith Michaels flashes devilishly sarcastic smiles while bedding students, insulting his feminist co-worker (Allison Janney), and asserting his belief that writing is an innate skill that can't be taught.
When not making an inappropriate ass out of himself, Keith strikes up an interest in older student -- and mother of two -- Holly (Marisa Tomei), who encourages him to keep at his new job, to reconnect with his estranged son, and to see the error of his ways and the virtues of his new upstate home and its strenuously wacky residents (including Chris Elliott and J.K. Simmons). Amid much talk about character, story structure, and theme, Grant delivers his usual rakish-charmer routine in a role that's as hackneyed as the script's portrait of women, the movie industry, and Star Wars fanatics is one-note. The Rewrite talks a good game about second chances, but for Grant, it's merely more of the same old.