The Re-Education of Molly Singer
Britt Robertson and a great supporting cast are wasted in this dumb piffle about a lawyer going back to college to help her uptight boss' kid.
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Britt Robertson is an actress I’ve kept my eye on because she’s got a lot of onscreen appeal but has been stuck on the wrong side of “breaking out” for about a decade now.
She’s been solid in a few films that didn’t quite hit or were outright flops: “Tomorrowland,” “The Space Between Us,” “A Dog’s Purpose.” Her sweet spot is smart, spunky women who challenge the conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, sometimes Hollywood just doesn’t know what to do with certain thespians, especially women. I don’t mind saying I’ve kind of been rooting for her to have her moment.
“The Re-Education of Molly Singer” ain’t it.
This dumb piffle falls into the body switcheroo/going back to school comedy mold of “Billy Madison” or the more recent “Senior Year.” Robertson plays the titular character, a hard-partying 30-year-old lawyer who is given a choice by her boss: return to her old college posing as a freshman and help her anxious son fit in, or lose her job.
It’s a tired premise, with the added titillation of an older woman playing spiritual/sexual Svengali to a teen boy. We just saw that a few months ago with Jennifer Lawrence in “No Hard Feelings,” with funnier results.
At least Molly is not expected to boink Elliot (Ty Simpkins) herself, but lead him to social acceptance like a horse to water — or, in this case, a veritable lake of booze.
Aside from being juvenile and unfunny, this movie — directed by Andy Palmer from a screenplay by Todd M. Friedman and Kevin Haskin — seems stuck out of time with its enthusiastic embrace of college binge drinking. Molly is already a (barely) functioning alcoholic, getting plastered every night at the clubs and then oversleeping the next morning.
Upon arriving on campus, she immediately sets about to mentor Elliot in the Tao of blackouts. There are several montages of them getting blasted and sharing their revelry on social media, including one bit where Elliot gets a dart stuck in his arm.
This displeases his mom (Jaime Pressly), who worries about it impacting Elliot’s future, but it does work in attracting the attentions of Lindsay (Cierra Ramirez), the fetching girl next door (literally) at his dorm.
Her current beau is Stu (Zach Scheerer), the prototypical college comedy villain aka Aggressive Frat Dude. He’s all bulging biceps and toxic masculinity, who takes an immediate dislike to Elliot and Molly. Their ongoing one-upmanship occuppies pretty much the rest of the movie. The (low) highlight is a marathon of drinking contests dubbed the Boozecathalon.
Molly’s wingman in this collegiate adventure is Ollie, another stereotype as the flamboyant gay Asian-American. Played by Nico Santos, Ollie is a trust-fund baby working as a grade school cafeteria worker, cut off from his family for never finishing college. He takes Molly up on her offer as a way to get his degree and have a little fun along the way.
Santos and Robertson have a beautiful energy together, true besties who accept each other’s flaws and support their bad decisions while trying (a little) to nudge them toward better ones. Their screen time together is so enjoyable, we almost wish we could dump the whole get-the-kid-laid plot and focus on their friendship.
Weirdly, Molly Singer does not actually get much of an education going back to college. As far as we can tell she doesn’t attend any classes, and the deal with her boss is only for two months so she can return to work. So basically it’s just a boozy sabbatical for her.
It’s also passing strange that Elliot doesn’t really seem to have any serious problems or mental-health diagnoses. His issues seem to melt away almost the minute he meets Molly, Lindsay soon falls into his arms, and even his one big embarrassing moment actually, uh… swells his reputation around campus. So we struggle to sympathize with him.
“The Re-Education of Molly Singer” feels like an ‘80s college sex comedy, minus the sex. Despite an R rating it’s rather tame with little more than a bit of cussing. Not even an obligatory puke-a-thon scene to put a bow on the Boozecathalon.
I still liked Robertson, wasted as she is in this drivel, and Santos brings a comfortable charm to what is usually a throwaway role. But this movie fails to pass the Gene Siskel test of whether you’d rather just watch these actors chatting at lunch than the movie they actually made.
“The Re-Education of Molly Singer” is out in a limited theater run and most video on demand platforms starting Sept. 29.