Friday, May 12, 2017
TEACHING MRS. TINGLE (1999)
Written & Directed By: Kevin Williamson
Cinematography By: Jerzy Zielinski
Editor: Debra Neil-Fisher
Cast: Katie Holmes, Helen Mirren, Barry Watson, Marisa Couglin, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael McKean, Molly Ringwald, Vivica A. Fox, Liz Tauber
Leigh Ann is salutatorian when she needs to be valedictorian to get her scholarship to Harvard. The only class she is worse than the leader in is history, taught by Mrs. Tingle, and the teacher hates her. When an attempt to get ahead in Mrs. Tingle's class goes awry, mayhem ensues and friendships, loyalties and trust are tested by the teacher's intricate mind-games.
I remember being really excited for this film. As I was a Kevin Williamson fanatic. I worshipped the movie SCREAM. I really liked I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. I was entertained by other movies he was involved in and was a fan of DAWSON'S CREEK. So at the time this movie was In production. I even managed to get my hands on a copy of the script. What I read was more of a lovely teen thriller. Then what we get.
I don't know what happened on the way to the screen. It seemed like all the life was leaked out of it.
The trailer didn't help, which seemed haphazard. Putting in all the lame throwaway jokes and trying to hype the audience with pumping loud music (GARBAGE's song Push It I believe was a nice pick though) quick shots that lead to believe here would be more action involved throughout. I have only watched this film once since seeing it on opening night of it's release. While it still plays as kind of dull. It seems more like a product of it's Time that never seems to get started. As it has plenty of promise and you constantly wait for it to get deeper and dangerous it it never does it plays safe, way too safe.
Helen Mirren is supreme in this film. If only the rest of the film was up to her stature. She plays the ultimate witty, bitchy teacher. Who asks more from her students and rules the school with an iron fist.
It's a Shame this movie wasn't a hit though she is a celebrated actress this could have been her THE DEVIL WEARS PARADA. Before the success of that book and film. As this film has similar dynamics of relationship and mentorship. Only here forced and more to the extreme.
The film lacks a certain vitality. It feels and forms across as flat and forgettable. As this film could have been a revelation a tight dark teenage comedy. It feels like it makes concessions to become more of a typical teen comedy anchored by a strong authoritarian performance that makes all the younger actors pale in comparison.
Instead of going on to be original it tries to register itself with the audience. At times when it could take a stronger viewpoint it seems to back down. Usually going for labs where there could have been tension. Leaving itself with no or very little reason to see this film or set it apart.
It could have played up more how she is needed in this institution her iron hand is what keeps things going smoothly at the school. The power of her position. Then watching it fall apart with out her disciplinarian tactics. So that they are better off with her than without her. That makes a more powerful statement. Instead it shows how much better things are without her and just keeping her hidden is the main obstacle. The film seems to take Mrs. Tingle down as a character throughout. She is never given the proper credit for making the students excel. Luckily by the end they don't soften her character.
Only Marisa Coughlin's character is the only other one who makes the film come alive when she is in it. Though she is given very little to do most of the time. Even though she comes across with so much energy. So much so that her exorcist scene seems random yet earned though also like filler. While it is the only memorable scene in the film.
Like most hostage taking films. The entertainment is in watching Mirren's character turn the tables slowly on the kidnappers, but that is convoluted by involving a romantic angle that is tired. Insulting the audience and any originality you hoped to capture within the characters. Who are for the most part dull. So much so that by the third act when most of the action actually takes place seems more like filler because it is owed. As the film seems to want to give that promise throughout.
It feels like writer/director Kevin Williamson wanted to lure the audience to his typical type film. Then wanted to show more range and change it on them to a more comedic thriller. Rather then a more horrific or even cynical one, to show he was more versatile as a writer and apparently director.
It seems as if all involved are burnt out Katie Holmes from filming DAWSON'S CREEK, Williamson from writing, producing and show running DAWSON'S CREEK, WaStElAnD (His premiering show that lasted one season) writing scripts or doing punch up work.
The film maintains the main point that teachers can shape your lives in both bad and good ways. The best you will never forget as they prepare you for life outside the walls of school. They try to give you survival skills to combat the big bad real world. Though they also always should have a place that they stay.
Here the characters shake up the system to the benefit that makes everyone happy and the school a better place.
In the end the film feels more like a waste of time more than anything else