Review: Sexual dynamics studied in timid ‘Submission’

Stanely Tucci stars as a college professor who has an inappropriate relationship with a student in this timely drama

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Submission” tells a timely story, ripped from today’s headlines. If only it was more sure about the story it wanted to tell.

Stanley Tucci is Ted Swenson, an ex-novelist turned creative writing professor at a small Vermont liberal arts college. He was never able to follow up his successful first novel, and the lack of follow-through on his writing career is a constant source of stress, if not depression.

Now he critiques his students’ writing, and can barely muster up the energy to care about his work. It’s a daily grind, and he’s just trying to punch out at the end of every day.

He’s excited when he sees the potential in one of his students, Angela (Addison Timlin, “Californication”), and even more excited when she shows an interest in him. Their meetings begin innocently — her coming to his morning office hours, him reading her pages — but slowly their relationship begins to cross lines. Can he drive her into the city to pick up a new computer? Sure, it’s just a ride, what’s the harm in that?

Tucci and Timlin are both quite good in their roles, and writer-director Richard Levine (adapting Francine Prose’s 2000 novel “Blue Angel”) does an excellent job of slowly escalating the pair’s relationship.

It’s the aftermath where Levine falters, and you begin to wonder whose story “Submission” is, or what exactly it’s looking to say.

Kyra Sedgwick is Swenson’s wife, and has a killer scene where she tells off her husband. There, “Submission” crackles. Elsewhere, it’s like Swenson, just going through the motions.

(313) 222-2284




Not rated

Running time: 106 minutes