Noah Schnapp plays a wealthy teen obsessed with his new tutor (Garrett Hedlund). Early press suggested a story in the vein of Fatal Attraction, Swimfan or The Crush. A chance for Schnapp to embrace his sexuality, as rising teen idols have before him. But The Tutor is a chaste psychological thriller. And a dull one.
Schnapp’s fans will be disappointed by his underwritten role. First of all, he hasn’t much screen time. The focus is on Hedlund as he juggles his job and his relationship with his wet blanket girlfriend. Victoria Justice is saddled with the dullest scenes in a film that’s short on momentum. Second, Schnapp has minions that handle his dirty work. A creepy cousin for muscle. Some silent vamps for heterosexual blackmail. This leaves Schnapp little to do but alternate between deadpan, angry and weepy.
Schnapp and his crew begin sabotaging Hedlund’s career and personal life. For a moment the film is about class. Hedlund claims he’s being targeted by bored, privileged brats. An interesting thread that is soon dropped. Schnapp hints he’s seeking vengeance for some past wrong. Hedlund’s performance grows increasingly unhinged. The editing grows choppy. Questions pile up. Why doesn’t Hedlund tell people what’s happening? Why does Schnapp know so much about him? Why is the story becoming incoherent?
The latter seems to be the result of studio meddling. They knew the film wasn’t working. So, they snipped it to 90 minutes, slapped on a noisy soundtrack and snuck it into limited release. The story wraps up with expository monologues and a dimly lit chase. We finally learn what’s really going on. But I wasn’t invested enough in these cardboard characters to care.
For the curious, here is my spoiler filled recap.
Scene One: Tutor’s Apartment
TUTOR: They’re offering me $2,500 a day to tutor some rich brat.
TUTOR: I know. We need the money for the new baby.
TUTOR: I’ll miss you too. But it will be fine.
Scene Two: Mansion
TUTOR: What was your SAT score?
TUTOR: What are your academic interests?
TUTOR: You aced these practice tests. Why do you want a tutor?
Scene Three: Tutor’s Guest Room
TUTOR (on the phone): He’s weird.
GIRLFRIEND (on the phone): Honey.
TUTOR: I know. All rich kids are weird. Wait a second.
JACKSON: Can I come in? (Rests his head on the Tutor’s lap.) My mother left and my dad hates me and I’m super sad. You’re so cool, no homo, and I want you to stay. (Jackson leaves.)
TUTOR: What the hell?
Scene Four: Mansion
JACKSON: Tell me about your new baby.
JACKSON: Have dinner with me.
JACKSON: Take some money.
JACKSON: You whore. How about my cousins drug you, take PG-13 blackmail photos and drop you in a lake?
(Fast forward through a series of humiliations until…)
Scene Five: Boat House
TUTOR: You ruined my life. I lost my job and my girlfriend and now I’m homeless.
JACKSON: You ruined my life! Ten years ago, when I was at boarding school, you had an affair with my mother and then she “committed suicide.” I think you killed her!
TUTOR: I didn’t! I didn’t! Okay I did. I LOVED HER! I COULDN’T LET HER LEAVE!
TUTOR: You overheard that? NOW YOU KNOW TOO MUCH!
(Tutor chases them with a fireplace poker. Jackson shoots Tutor with a gun.)
EX-GIRLFRIEND: Gosh. You think you know someone.
I can’t recommend The Tutor. It’s too safe and humorless to provide genre thrills. Here are some better films to check out instead.
- Want a horror film motivated by economic anxiety? Start with Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell.
- A thriller showcasing a queer teen protagonist? Watch Samuel Van Grinsven’s excellent Sequin in a Blue Room.
- A film where Garret Hedlund provides queer fan service? 2012’s On the Road.
- A brash horror comedy? Revisit M3gan.
As for Noah Schnapp fans? He’s filming one more season as Will Byers on Stranger Things. The punching bag with bad hair. The Tutor shows a willingness to stretch his range. There may be better roles for him in the future.
You can find my reviews on The Avocado, Letterboxd and Serializd. My podcast, Rainbow Colored Glasses, can be found here.
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