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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 41.18%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 11 user ratings

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Mentor (2006)
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by Marc Kandel

"Hot for Teacher…’s Assistant…"
4 stars

SCREEENED AT THE '06 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: I was leery of the premise: A graduate student grows uncomfortably close with his teacher and teacher’s assistant/lover and the line blurs between teacher and friend, assistant and lover, student and assistant…getting the big picture here? It's a volatile cauldron of situations that’s been used and abused on big screen and small, so it’s down to director and actors to give it a jolt of life; this critic says they do.

When a letter arrives from a deceased mentor, the protégé, now a teacher at a compromised, creative dead end looks back at a time when he was a promising student eager to learn and advance in his career as a writer, and his complicated relationship with two people that inexorably led to a destructive, damaged conclusion. Is it too late to pick up the pieces and change for the better?

As the parties involved are writers with the teacher being a renown author, naturally we are going to get a lot of high minded quotes and erudite posturing, with some sex n’ drugs thrown in the mix for that world-weary feel. I have a feeling critics are going to dogpile something fierce on this one as a formulaic exercise reciting the worst melodramatic tactics and irritating pretensions. It comes close, dangerously close at times, and at the bare surface, that’s what we appear to get. But I believe there is more at work here, which I attribute to some pretty damn good performances, some thinking on the part of the writer, and lastly some skilled direction in letting the characters deal with their experiences minus the melodrama, instead simply reacting to the surrealistic nature of the awkward and disturbing situations minus shallow sentiment and artificial angst.

Matthew Davis plays Carter, the embittered result of a strained, ethically grey relationship with author Sanford Pollard, played by Rutger Hauer. Davis has quite the resume for a slavering critic to sharpen their knives to- Blue Crush, Bloodrayne, Pearl Harbor, but he comes out on the plus side here. His reactions to the situations thrust upon him are honest; his impressionable, yet rebellious student days and his resultant numbness and dried out wit as an embittered, lonely, frustrated adult are carried off well, if somewhat inexpressively (which could be appropriate) for a man who has walked far off the path and lost his way.

Rutger Hauer brings calm, calculative warmth to his character, and his is the real lynchpin on which the story rests. The film comes down to Pollard’s motivations, and Hauer delivers as a sharp older wolf who stays just shy of being an intellectual bully, unafraid to show us a brilliant, yet increasingly tired man who is either manipulating the lives of lackeys because he can, or more interestingly (and positive), creating a legacy through two people he cares for that can no longer afford to care for him. The film keeps us unsure as to the motivations, a smart play as Carter struggles to see if opening the letter is worth the anguish and flood of self-recrimination it may trigger.

As a professor taking a student lover, an author disdainful of his readership and fame, and an older man who must look carefully at the people now under his tutelage and the damage and opportunity he has brought them, Hauer keeps it close to the vest, but never becomes an enigma or a flat out antagonist- we can read his face so well, guess at his motivations, but the structure of the film keeps us out of the know and therefore out of predictability. And even if you can keep a step ahead till film’s end, you won’t be bored.

Dagmara Dominczyk creates a character that simply oozes sex. You won’t take your eyes off her (and really, why would you want to?). She’s the cardboard cut out of the sharp witted intellectual seductress who’s every move, nuance, glance is designed to seduce, test and intimidate. Fortunately, we have ample reasons for the facade, and a real human being that manages to get out from underneath the obvious; otherwise, she’d be a graduate student’s wet dream, and nothing more. There is deeper exploration and payoff on display here.

I have a single qualm about a party scene where Carter is given a moral out to act on an impulse he has tried to keep down as Pollard gives him an excuse. I would have liked Carter simply giving in minus justification, thereby placing a bit more responsibility on his shoulders rather than showing Pollard as a puppeteer, orchestrating events. I don’t think there is an outright wrong choice here, and it’s certainly in line with the film’s central arc. I just found myself wondering why the story should make things so easy for its protagonist to excuse the inappropriate actions taken.

So no best picture here, no volumes of essays scribbled in film journals, it’s not the next “Casablanca”. What we have is a familiar yet engaging story supported by decent performances that does its job as solid entertainment.

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originally posted: 05/13/06 02:11:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/03/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
9/24/07 Lucinda Dodge Marred by poor performances aside from Hauer 4 stars
9/15/07 Charles Jester I loved it!! Want to buy CD if available. Must see 5 stars
5/09/07 Dale Cory Excellent direction, good performances 5 stars
5/24/06 Earl Morris I thought that the movie was superb in delivering an old theme. 5 stars
5/18/06 Gavin Bamber Don't miss it. 5 stars
5/06/06 Jane Thoroughly enjoyable 5 stars
5/01/06 John Pauls Gripping story. A must see. 5 stars
5/01/06 Robb Doub Great film 5 stars
4/30/06 Todd Great script! Talented Cast! Well done! 5 stars
4/26/06 Emily sexy and gripping!! 5 stars
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  DVD: 26-Oct-2010



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