The sexual politics and power dynamics on a college campus get a work-out in Richard Levine’s adaptation of Francine Prose’s novel, Blue Angel. Ted Swenson (Stanley Tucci) is a writing teacher at a small liberal-arts college in New England; years ago, he had a mildly successful novel, but now he’s just treading water, bored. He has a supportive wife (Kyra Sedgwick), but he’s restless and frustrated (his students are lifeless lumps). So, there is little surprise that he succumbs to the flattery of one student, the nervous fan, Angela (Addison Timlin). Angela is an aspiring writer, working on a novel provocatively called Eggs, which is about — surprise — a high-school girl having an affair with her male teacher.
So, you can guess where this is headed — the plot is drawn broadly, and plays on our expectations of previous works. (There’s a nesting-doll effect of subplots here about older men and younger women, including snippets from the 1930 Josef von Sternberg/Marlene Dietrich film, The Blue Angel, from which Prose drew her title.) There’s an archness to the film that keeps this from devolving into Lifetime melodrama, and a few twists that keep it erring on the side of intentionally provocative rather than hectoring. But such judgments may be in the eye of the beholder. These are fraught times for such issues, and I can imagine condemnations for this film as well. I rather enjoyed it, but somewhat sudsy films about scandals, featuring marquee actors, are a guilty pleasure of mine.
Starts Fri., March 9. Chartiers 18, Bridgeville