Stanley Tucci plays, Ted Swensen, a moderately famous professor of literature in ‘Submission.’ Due to having sold one somewhat lucrative novel and being touted, for a moment, ‘the writer to watch,’ he teaches the subject but isn’t necessarily where he wants to be. On occasion, he gets some special attention from students, fans of his work, he might not otherwise have received and smiles at the thought. However, after the failure of being able to write a follow-up book, he realizes that things might not ever be better than it is now. Wanting more than what his station can provide, he gets himself into a mess when an opportunity to feel on top again presents itself. It comes in the form of the adoration of a young student. Enjoying the praise and attention, his ego or inner nature doesn’t see the path he is being led down, only where the road may ultimately lead. I’ll give you a hint… he’s on a course to self-destruction.
Richard Levine’s adaptation of the Francine Prose novel, ‘Blue Angel’ is a fascinating, dramatic narrative about the glaringly oblivious, powerful male archetype being chewed up and swallowed by a seemingly sympathetic, innocent and doting student, aptly named, Angela. It is divine. The angelic student is presented to us by the wonderfully gifted Addison Timlin, who first starts weaving her web by flattering Ted, telling him how much his book helped her get through her father’s death. Timlin’s Angela is engaging and hypnotizing. Angela is crafty and manipulative and though tender at first, she gets more aggressive, knowing full well when to bring out the big guns.
One day while speaking to him after class, she overwhelms him with the things and people she most admires. She throws out some of her other favorite authors, all names that impress him and help them relate to one another, not to mention, compel him to want to know more. She speaks of her own book and while doing so she makes herself seem vulnerable, cutting herself down whenever possible so that she can gauge his feelings by whether or not he tries to build her back up. She the queen to his pawn in a game he isn’t prepared to play. She soon asks her professor to read the first chapter of her book and asks him to tell her what he thinks of it. Who better to give her an opinion than the wonderful and talented Ted Swensen? After she explains all the reasons he shouldn’t read it, he agrees to make time for it. The book is called ‘Egg’ which turns out to be largely sexual in nature.
We listen to Swensen’s inner dialogue through the beginning of the film, which is fitting to carry the story forward. You might not be a big fan of voice over but it’s humorous and instructive at times and helps endear the audience to his character. However, as we move further along, we don’t hear his thoughts as much, only the chapters he is reading as they now have consumed his every thought, his imagination and have cost him sleep. As his interest in the story intensifies so does his interest in Angela. He believes this young author to be, ‘Quite accomplished,’ and instructs her not to show it to others; to keep is close.
Through different characters and situations, at a dinner party with his loving wife, Sherrie (Sedgwick), and speaking of his student Angela with another professor, Magda (Garofalo), he is given subtle warnings about her and the situation that’s building in general and doesn’t catch a single one. Through these warnings, the audience gets a glimpse of how dangerous having one’s ego stroked to this degree can be. Tension builds, you shake your head at him and though he tries to tell himself he’s only a mentor, maybe even a father figure, it’s not working with you.
This is a great strategy and Tucci is the perfect everyman to associate with. This story is fantastic. We see that the jig is finally up when he reads the line in the book, ‘I alone had the power to make a grown man risk everything.’ This is a brilliant way to finally give Ted an awakening, one of many.
Submission is a pleasure. It’s well written, well shot and the actors were remarkable. It unfolds to reveal two opportunists, one more vicious than the other. I’ll let you decide which one that is. *See it at Harkins Shea 14 tonight!