Mentor is the debut feature from David
Carl Lang (or David Langlitz, as he appears to be known in his movie life), a
man who happens to have spent the last two decades as the principle trombonist
for New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, a position he still holds. In 1998,
Lang’s short, Angel Passing, about a concert pianist, was shown at Sundance and
other festivals and won a handful of awards, but Mentor is his first work since.
Starring Rutger Hauer as Sanford Pollard, a professor who grows too close to two
of his students, Mentor is also pretentious and self-indulgent.
From its opening moments, you sense that Mentor is doomed. That first scene begins with a close-up of Hauer’s unshaven face, as he tells someone -- obviously a student -- that he doesn’t like the work he’s just read. In response, the student angrily begins talking about personal motives, and love, and it’s obvious that the two have a relationship that goes beyond traditional mentorship. It’s also obvious, however, how trite and contrived the screenplay is, and that the acting is not good enough to rise above its weaknesses.
The story Mentor tells, of a brilliant author and professor who is involved with a former student and becomes too close to another, is excruciatingly cliched, and neither Lang nor writer/producer William Whitehurst are interested in adding to the tired storyline, or tweaking it in any way. Supporting Hauer’s egotistical professor with an aggressively Different and Sexy female lead (Dagmara Dominczyk) and an eager, naďve new devotee (Matthew Davis), the film conforms to every single expectation, including an ill-advised affair, an unplanned pregnancy, and several broken hearts. While well-worn stories are often told successfully through many incarnations, the problem with Lang’s film is that we don’t care about any of the characters; it becomes a nearly unendurable chore to listen to their faux-realistic dialogue, which has a strange tendency to sound like it was written by a low-rent Aaron Sorkin, who has the contrivance of his idol but neither his charm nor his understand of human interaction. The result of the utter lack of realism is that both the characters and their creators come across as painfully self-indulgent, the former for their inability (or unwillingness) to connect with those around them, and the latter for creating such characters, and for taking them -- and, one has to conclude, themselves -- so seriously.
The actors, too, suffer terribly under the burden of the screenplay; they never have a chance. Hauer is his usual self, often acting a little too big for the scenes he is in, and never really relating to the characters around him who, nevertheless, continue to worship him. While his natural distance is sometimes instrumental in the success of his films (it’s prefect, for example, for his role in Blade Runner), Hauer’s difficulty in convincingly portraying genuine warmth and affection is often a weakness, and it is a problem in Mentor. As Julia, Hauer’s former student and current lover, Dominczyk is nothing but a collection of idealized traits, waltzing through most scenes as the stereotypical hot, smart girl that nerdy high school seniors dream about finding their freshman year (only to find that she doesn’t exist, something that doesn’t seem to have occurred to Mentor’s writer). In the role of Carter, the student who becomes entangled with Pollard and Julia, Matthew Davis seems totally overmatched. Carter is at the center of most of the film’s major scenes, and Davis simply lacks the ability to effectively express the wrenching emotions his character is supposed to be experiencing; his bland portrayal only adds to the air of falseness that pervades the film.
Posted Apr 19th 2006 7:07AM by Martha
Filed under: Drama, Independent, Tribeca, Theatrical Reviews
Screening Time: Saturday, May 13, 3:00 PM, Falvey Hall
Director: David Langlitz
Writer/Producer: William Whitehurst
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Matt Davis, Dagmara Dominczyk, Susan Misner, Matt Servitto, Peter Scolari, Lynn Chen, Isabel Glasser, Lawrence Pressman, Ronald Gluttman, Robert LuPone
Running Time: 90:00 minutes
The film begins in the fall of 1997 as Carter Baines (Matt Davis) is presenting his first, very personal and unpublished manuscript to his mentor, world renown literary figure and college professor, Sanford Pollock (Rutger Hauer). Pollack declares Baines’ novel to be rubbish and so begins the love/hate relationship between student and mentor that will cut back and forth from the past (1997) to the present day (2005).
An unusual love triangle commences when Pollack’s graduate assistant and lover, Julia (Dagmara Domincyzk) becomes interested in Baines. The three spend many afternoons and evening dinners together discussing love, sex and writing philosophies.
When Baines is invited to spend the following summer with Pollack and Julia at Pollack’s home in St Michael’s, the groundwork is laid for unexpected intimacy. Mentor/puppeteer Pollack continues to pull the strings as he watches and writes. “Don’t write what you think, write what you feel” is Pollack’s constant admonishment about his student Baines’ work. In the end of the film, eight years later, Baines is publishing the novel about the summer in St Michael’s. It is all about how he felt.
The acting in the film is first rate across the board. Rutger Hauer is prefect as the self absorbed novelist, mentor, manipulator. Matt Davis reminds one of a young Harrison Ford and Dagmara Domincyzk is very convincing as the foil in their love triangle. The film, written by William Whitehurst and directed by David Langlitz, is professionally shot locally by DP Miguel Linton. Johns Hopkins University, North Charles Street, Mt Vernon Place, and Federal Hill are easily recognized in the drama.
-- Steve Yeager
A young writer's friendship with a famous author turns sour when he falls for the wrong woman in this independent drama. Stanford Pollard (Rutger Hauer) is a once famous and successful novelist whose career is in a bit of a slump. Pollard has used his still-impressive literary reputation to land a prestigious teaching position at a major university, where English student and aspiring author Carter Baines (Matthew Davis) is his student and assistant. While it doesn't take long for Baines to discover how petty and manipulative Pollard can be, he's also more than a bit awed by the great man, and feels privileged to be taken under his wing. Pollard has another favorite student, Julia (Dagmara Dominczyk), a beautiful co-ed who become his lover, but as the friendship Pollard and Baines becomes closer, Julia finds herself increasingly attracted to Pollard's handsome young assistant. For a while, Pollard and Baines share Julia's affections, but when she decides she wants Baines more than Pollard, the older man becomes increasingly angry and vindictive against his charges. The first feature film from director David Langlitz, Mentor received its world premier at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide