Stories about teachers having illicit affairs with their students are nothing new. There have been countless variations on this theme over the decades and even centuries, with the older teacher (usually a man) feeling that such an affair will quench the ennui building inside him. Following this pattern is this week’s limited release Submission, starring Stanley Tucci, Addison Timlin and Kyra Sedgwick.
Tucci plays Ted Swenson, a college professor who teaches literature, writing or something along those lines. A well-known writer himself, he struggles with balancing his own aspirations with the requirements of teaching. He becomes enamored with the talents of Angela (Timlin), one of his students who is stoking the embers of his desire for her own reasons. As the two become more and more entwined the stakes become higher as the fallout affects not only Ted’s career but his marriage to Sherrie (Sedgwick).
Tucci’s professor looks over his students, apparently one in particular, on the poster. It’s all covered with a very typewriter-esque typeface, conveying to the audience that we’re dealing with story about words. That’s reinforced by the copy “He read her story. Then he became part of it.” So it’s pretty clear we’re dealing with a story of an older man making the wrong call with regard to a younger woman, in this case his student. The whole typeface thing is a bit cliched, but it still makes some amount of sense.
Angela is narrating her story as the trailer opens, currently on a very sexually-explicit passage. We see Ted is reading and visualizing the scene until he’s taken out of the moment by the voice of his wife. In class it’s clear she’s pushing for a story the rest of the group is uncomfortable with, but Ted is encouraging her. He’s working on his own novel while also dealing with her increased attachment to him, including some inappropriate requests she’s making. It becomes clear she’s manipulating him, leading to sexual harassment charges being filed against him that threaten to bring his whole world down.
There’s not a whole lot that’s incredibly original here. It reminds me somewhat of stories like Oleanna and others that have been focused on the dynamic between a male teacher and female student and what transpires in their private conversations. Tucci looks excellent as always and Timlin appears to give a strong performance as well, but there isn’t a whole lot here that’s going to knock anyone’s socks off.
Online and Social
I can’t find a single online profile or other presence for the movie. Not a page. Weird.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing, which isn’t surprising.
Media and Publicity
The movie has made appearances at both the 2017 L.A. Film Festival and the Woodstock Film Festival, but has garnered only middling reviews and little to no buzz or word of mouth from either one.
As has been too often the case recently I’m getting serious flashbacks to the 90s here, when sexual harassment was the topic du jour thanks to the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and a slew of other events. Like I said, David Mamet’s Oleanna comes to mind, as does Michael Crichton’s Disclosure, both of which captured that moment. And I thought we had kind of moved past depictions of women as manipulative creatures turning men around their fingers to achieve their own ends.
So if there’s anything that could still make the film seem attractive it’s the promise of the cast. These are always reliable actors, but as much as we may want to see them, the hope here is that they can rise above the cliched material it appears they’ve been handed.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.