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The English Teacher

The title character in the lightly comic The English Teacher is a 45-year-old single woman whose zealous devotion to her job precludes nearly everything else. She reads Jane Austen and swoons, but there's no real-life romance in her life. An exacting person, Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) goes on a series of first dates and mentally grades her suitors: F for the narcissist who doesn't pay for dinner, C for having a bad mustache.

The film is set in a suburban Pennsylvania high school, where Linda's students respond to her enthusiastic love of good writing. One of them, Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano), even went on to NYU and wrote a play. Initially, Linda's reunion with Jason is awkward as he approaches her in a hoodie near an ATM, and she pepper-sprays him. Mortified when she sees who he is, they talk and she learns he's a disillusioned playwright who can't find a producer. She offers to read his work.

Next we see Linda on her couch, weeping as she reads the play. She pronounces it a masterpiece, and drama teacher Carl Kapinas (Nathan Lane) agrees. Lane has the movie's best lines, including his assessment of the play as "O'Neill meets Kafka meets Spielberg." Linda and Carl are determined to mount a production, but things grow strained as Linda and Jason inevitably grow close. She goes from being a committed and upright teacher to displaying some unlikely behavior in very little time.

This is a brisk comedy, with a top-notch cast. Writers Dan and Stacy Chariton are responsible for some clever banter, particularly the theater references given to Lane, who nails them. What we see of the play seems faintly ridiculous. The rehearsals are a hoot, especially Carl's frustrated desire to make it a Broadway-style epic, which Linda foolishly bankrolls after the school resists.

Lane steals the show, which is no small feat when someone of the caliber of Moore is the star. The English Teacher is an appealing tale that's worth seeing just for his performance.

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The English Teacher

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