johnlink ranks TEACHING MRS. TINGLE (1999)

When I started to become interested in writing during my high school years there were three major influences on me stylistically. The first was Tarantino (who got me interested in screen writing), the second was Stephen King (which is why I use all these parentheses), and the third was Kevin Williamson. Sure there were other favorites like Lawrence Block and Elmore Leonard, but those were the three which really influenced me. With Williamson, it was the way he spoke on behalf of my generation. It was a culture infused and self-aware style which wasn’t afraid to add a side of cheese to its drama, but which always managed to feel real, even when it was anything but. His SCREAM is an all time classic in the horror genre, and I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER isn’t a bad entry, though it upped the cheese perhaps a bit too much. But it was really his creation of DAWSON’S CREEK which hooked me. He had created a character in Dawson Leery who was an idealist who wanted to get the girl and make movies. As a seventeen year old, I definitely got on board with that, heck it is why most everything I write is set in fictional Williamson, RI. So the movie today is TEACHING MRS. TINGLE. This is one of the lesser known entries from Williamson, who also directed.

I watched TEACHING MRS. TINGLE(1999) on 1.26.11. It was my third viewing of the film, and the first since college. TRAILER HERE

So here we have Katie Holmes as the ideal student from a rough (by Hollywood movie standards) background who is fighting to be Valedictorian. If she gets it, she gets a scholarship and gets out of small town life. Standing in the way is the evil Mrs. Tingle, played by the wonderful Helen Mirren. A little controversy leads to Holmes and two friends confronting Mrs. Tingle in her house, an accident ensues, and suddenly three students are holding their teacher hostage in her own house.

This is played as light and funny. Mirren plays along and elevates this movie from below-average to slightly above-average. She commits to what she is doing, even if we sometimes sense that she knows this movie is beneath her. Katie Holmes is adorable as ever (sigh… thanks for ruining Katie for me Tom Cruise). And we even get a Molly Ringwald sighting in a cameo.

The potential this movie has is thanks to the script by Williamson, which is fun and witty and engaging. The problems this movie has are also thanks to Williamson. His directing is average at best (it hurts me to say that) and because he directs the script himself, the problems the script presents don’t have good solutions.

The crossbow kills this movie. There is one point where Mrs. Tingle gets shot in the head with it, but it only grazes her. How does that knock her out for several hours? Then later, someone is shot with it, only *surprise* they aren’t dead. But they pop up, say one thing and pass back out. The film works hard to build some sense of realism, but they ruin it with a couple of key bad decisions. And the thing is, they could have been worked around to avoid making it such an obvious thing. It’s sort fo funny that the guy who wrote a great script about lame horror conventions uses some in a film which he not only wrote and directed, but which isn’t even a horror film! The last act starts heading that way, and I wonder if Willimason’s original script was meant to go how it did. On one hand, I could see him wrapping it up in that nice little bow, on the other I think that his second act was subversive and bold enough that he may have had other intentions.

So this is an imperfect movie, one which could actually be remade fairly well. There are some plot holes the size of Capeside, but the film has a pretty workable premise. I’m probably being easier on this than I should because I like Holmes, Williamson, and Mirren so much. But I think it’s a fun little distraction.





~ by johnlink00 on January 27, 2011.

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