‘Tenure’ Is Among This Year’s Best Films (*****)

Monday, April 12, 2010
By Kevin Crossman
Luke Wilson and Gretchen Mol in Tenure

Luke Wilson and Gretchen Mol in Tenure

Mike Million’s collegiate comedy Tenure is a surprisingly melancholy affair, despite subplots about wacky topics as faculty hazing, retirement homes, and Big Foot. Luke Wilson delivers his best performance in years as a college professor caught between fading parental expectations and ongoing middle age. Don’t let the home video tag fool you, this is one of the year’s best films.

Wilson plays assistant English professor Charlie Thurber at fictional Gray College, and is stressed about his upcoming tenure review. He’s failed to gain tenure several times and this may be his last chance to live up to his father’s high expectations. Lightening the mood is Charlie’s buddy Jay played with gusto by David Koechner (Anchorman). Koechner provides most of the comic relief as an Anthropology professor obsessed with finding Big Foot. Meanwhile Charlie’s sister (Sasha Alexander) is pressuring him to provide his fair share of the cost of a retirement home for his father William Thurber (Bob Gunton), himself a former professor. Amidst all the angst, a new female professor fresh from Yale appears to threaten Charlie’s tenure chances but perhaps not his romantic ones. Gretchen Mol plays the new professor with the kind of quiet intelligence common in most of her recent films (The Ten, 3:10 to Yuma).

The themes of Tenure are surprisingly deep and often emotionally effective. The film’s relaxed storytelling does vary wildly from nuanced character moments to funny, profane one-liners, to the kind of workplace hijinks that make some fans dream of more face-time for Koechner’s Office character Todd Packer. Though the marketing would like you to think this is a “wacky romantic comedy” it is anything but that. The father-son stuff in particular should resonate for adult men of nearly any age.

The film’s independent budget does present some constraints, so the film does not provide the kind of active moments that would aid some of the outdoor Big Foot material. And the film’s cinematography does often feel a bit dashed-together. Nonetheless, there is a certain realism in the presentation that does provide for an enhanced experience for the film’s dramatic scenes and in a couple set-pieces including a blind date with Charlie and a phone operator played by Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married).

David Koechner and Luke Wilson in Tenure

David Koechner and Luke Wilson in Tenure

Frat Pack fans who liked Wilson’s work in Wes Anderson’s films or in some of his recent indie projects will feel right at home here. Writer-director Million wrote the film especially for Wilson, and he’s every bit as effective as you’d hope he be. Funny. Poignant. Over his head. It’s a fabulous performance.

Tenure won’t satisfy those looking for a paint-by-numbers RomCom, but for those who want a little deep thought to go along with some funny episodes Tenure might well be time well spent.

5

Tenure is available on Home Video starting on April 13

2 Responses to “‘Tenure’ Is Among This Year’s Best Films (*****)”

  1. [...] a smaller scale but no less noteworthy is this week’s DVD release of Tenure. As we reviewed here earlier this week, Tenure stars Wilson alongside David Koechner and Gretchen Mol and surely [...]

    #1737
  2. [...] @kevincrossman 5 star review of Luke Wilson in Tenure (avail on DVD tomorrow) http://the-frat-pack.com/2010/04/12/tenure-review/ [...]

    #1756

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