It’s no accident that the title character in “The English Teacher” works out at “Franklin Street Fitness” and drinks tea from “Kirby Park Coffee” — and that Wilkes University, WVIA and even The Times Leader get a little screen time.
Screenwriting duo Dan Chariton, a Wilkes-Barre native, and his wife, Stacy Chariton, decided Northeastern Pennsylvania would be a good setting for the story they crafted, which you can watch Saturday evening at the F.M. Kirby Center.
The Charitons will be available for a question-and-answer session at the screening, but before you ask, let Dan Chariton assure you the characters are not modeled after anyone, student or teacher, he knew when he attended Meyers High School.
“All of my teachers were very well-adjusted and responsible teachers,” he said. “None of them are the basis for this character or that other than Julianne Moore’s devotion to her students.”
In the movie, Moore plays Linda Sinclair, a single, fortysomething teacher whose ideas of romantic have been shaped by the literature she loves.
“She’s a very romantic soul, and she’s spent her life reading works of great literature that often present idealized versions of what romance should be, what men should be,” Chariton said. “She has limited her romantic options and her connections with people because very often people fall short of her standards.”
The character is hard on herself, too.
“She holds herself to such a high standard that if she ever slips she judges herself more harshly than anyone else does.”
Chariton doesn’t want to talk about the plot too much, to avoid spoiling the show for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.
He will say he and his wife, whom he met when they both were studying screenwriting at USC Film School in Los Angeles, are pleased with the performances of the actors, who include Nathan Lane as a drama teacher and Michael Angarano as a former student, back in town with a script he’d love to see produced as a play.
“We were blessed to have this wonderful cast,” Chariton said. “To a person, each of them was great and filled each role perfectly, much as we had imagined.”
He and his wife enjoy being able to collaborate on projects, he said.
“It makes our work so much better. You have a second brain right there.”
Because “high school is universal,” the Charitons could have set the story anywhere. But their two brains decided Northeastern Pennsylvania, specifically “Kingston,” as the English teacher’s town is called, seemed like the perfect spot.
“What local audiences might recognize is a certain vibe, a certain attitude in some of the characters that may represent some of the charm and local color,” Chariton said.
The movie had its world premiere earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. “As glamorous as that was,” Chariton wrote in a statement, “we’re far more excited about the opportunity to screen the film at the F.M. Kirby Center, the first ‘movie palace’ I ever knew. I can’t imagine a more meaningful location to host the NEPA premiere.”