If there’s a film that sums up how marketing truly has taken over Hollywood, instead of story-telling, a good candidate would be Tenure. A film about a man trying to find his place in a system that seems to reward everything it shouldn’t be, Tenure is a character piece with enough humor and enough drama to keep it interesting. Throw in a handful of good actors who don’t quite have A-list status (Luke Wilson, Gretchen Mol, David Koechner) and you have the formula for a quirky film that doesn’t quite have one label to sell under.
Charlie (Luke Wilson) is an English professor at Grey College at the state of his career where he’s up for tenure and all the accompanying perks with it. When a new hire from Yale, Elaine (Mol), comes in and seems to be his primary competition, his friend and anthropology professor Jay (David Koechner) convinces him to try to sabotage her career with a series of pranks. All the while he has to deal with his retired father (Bob Gunton), who lives nearby and may or may not be suffering from dementia.
And one can see why it went straight to DVD as opposed to getting a run in theatres; it’s not quite a comedy but not quite a drama, either. Charlie and Elaine are an interesting tandem as this isn’t a romantic comedy that one expects and that Mel Gibson & Helen Hunt proved successful in What Women Want. Instead they’re given a unique friendship as the film revolves around both having strengths that are the others weaknesses. Charlie is brilliant in the classroom yet can’t get anything published whereas Elaine is subpar in the classroom yet is about to get published in a prestigious journal. And it’s here where the film thrives.
Mol and Wilson have an interesting onscreen dynamic together; neither are as well known as they ought to be and yet they light up the screen like Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal did in When Harry Met Sally years ago (though in a film nowhere near as good). They work well together as they both have a great ability to underplay things in the wackiness around them.
The wackiness, in this case, comes from Bob Gunton and David Koechner. Jay has a Bigfoot obsession that detours the film multiple times and seems to be there to pad the film out to 90 minutes. While it’s rather humorous, especially the lengths Jay goes to prove his existence (and his flunkies in their niche club devoted to finding the mythical creature), it feels a bit out of place and only comes into play during the film’s finale.
If the film had been more about Charlie and Elaine, and the dynamic they have, the film would’ve been a much more interesting character study of two University professors trying to find their place in a system that seems to be more intent on rewarding for publication as opposed to teaching ability. As it stands, it’s a mismatched character piece with a “wacky” comedy subplot forced into it.
Blowtorch Entertainment’s first original production looks and sounds great. This isn’t a film that has a lot of big musical moments or scoring, nor does it rely on a lot of great cinematography, but for a dialogue based film it looks and sounds good.
There’s only the usual Deleted Scenes and Blooper Reel are included and isn’t much worth it.
Luke Wilson ought to be a bigger star then he is at this point, and films like Tenure aren’t helping.
Blowtorch Entertainment presents Tenure. Directed by Mike Million. Starring Luke Wilson, David Koechner, Gretchen Mol. Written by Mike Million. Running time: 89 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD April 13, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.