Even though “The English Teacher” (2013, Cinedigm, R, $30) was shot primarily in Westchester County, New York, it is as much an NEPA movie as “That Championship Season” or “The Molly Maguires.”
Screenwriter — and Wilkes-Barre native — Dan Chariton not only captures the big-hearted spirit of the area but manages to stock the wry comedy with nearly a dozen references to the region. For instance, main character Linda Sinclair (played by Julianne Moore) works out at Franklin Street Fitness, sips tea at Kirby Park Coffee and teaches at Kingston High School. Also name-checked are WVIA-TV, the Times Leader and Wilkes University.
So what’s “The English Teacher” about? In a word: transformation. Moore plays an unmarried instructor from Kingston who is so taken by a former student’s (Michael Angarano) play that she convinces the drama teacher (Nathan Lane) at Kingston High to mount a production.
Before the curtain goes up, there are plenty of hijinks involving the flawed but fascinating characters. The supporting cast members, particularly Lane, Greg Kinnear and Jessica Hecht, are superb, and first-time director Craig Zisk (“Weeds”) deserves credit for balancing hard truths with hard-won tenderness.
The movie, co-scripted by Dan’s wife, Stacy, was available on DVD and Blu-ray beginning Tuesday, but if you’d like to see it on the big screen, check out the Kirby Center screening on Sept. 28. The Charitons will be in attendance. Ticket prices are $10 general admission and $5 for students. Tickets are on sale through the Kirby Center Box Office at (570) 826-1100 or online at kirbycenter.org.