The games are dirty and the stakes are high in the new drama “Submission“. Stanley Tucci (sporting a toupee that doesn’t look half-bad) is as solid as ever as Ted Swenson, a dispirited college English lit professor in desperate search of a follow-up to a successful debut novel. Addison Timlin is Angela Argo, an admiring and enigmatic student who persuades her prof to critique chapters of her own go at a book. At first Angela projects as timid and unsure of herself and her craft with Ted. But we watch as she transforms from a seemingly scattered coed into a poised and purposeful young woman, and all the while shrewdly laser-focused on a prize she covets above all else.
As the mentorship develops matters inevitably become increasingly complicated between teacher and student. Eventually the relationship makes a volatile shift from nurturing common bond to flashpoint cataclysmic intimacy. Screenplay writer and director Richard Levine presents a dynamic in which it becomes increasingly difficult to discern who is in fact playing whom in the quest for literary fame and fortune.
The supporting cast are quite good across the board in “Submission”. The multi-gifted Janeane Garofalo-one of my all-time faves-brings a sense of humor and pathos to the story as Magda, professional cohort and personal confidante of Ted who must help determine a wrenching verdict regarding her friend late in the film. The routinely reliable Kyra Sedgwick makes an impression as Sherrie, a dutifully supportive working wife who has her comfy world shaken upside down in the wake of devastating disclosure. The pivotal restaurant dinner scene between husband and wife is powerful stuff from both of these pros. But it is Sedgwick’s performance in particular that infuses these emotionally jarring moments with searing sorrow and strength.
“Submission” opens in New York City on March 2 and in Los Angeles along with other markets nationwide March 9.