There’s something funny about college.
Even though people tell us that it’s supposed to be the best time of our lives, it’s in fact, a time fraught with insecurity and, quite often, fear. It’s an age that anyone can feel lost as they attempt to figure out who they are on the cusp of adulthood. We’ve seen this before in frat house movies, such as Animal House, PCU and Van Wilder, but there’s something unique about The Re-Education of Molly Singer.
The Re-Education of Molly Singer tells the story of Molly Singer (Britt Robertson), a young woman who made a name for herself as the life of the party during her college years. But now, as an adult, she spends her days struggling along as low-level attorney who’s just trying to keep her boss, Brenda (Jaime Pressly) off her back. When her job is on the line, Brenda lets her know that the way back into her good graces is to help her socially awkward son, Elliot (Ty Simpkins) acclimatize to college life. Re-enrolling in her old almamater, Molly and her friend Olly (Nico Santos) step back into the past in an effort to repair Elliot’s severely damaged reputation.
Directed by Andy Palmer, Molly Singer carves its own place in the genre. As Singer, Robertson has a confidence and self-awareness that serves her character well in this feminine Wilder world. Although sex is on the mind of the students, Singer’s role is to become a mentor as she coaches Elliot from clumsy dud to confident stud. Here, Robertson does a wonderful job of showing her comedic talent, without ever stumbling into a romantic role. To her, this exchange is all business, even if it involves having some fun along the way.
However, it’s worth noting that one of the brightest spots may be Santos in the role of Singer’s best friend, Ollie. Outside of his incredible work as Mateo in Superstore, much of Santos’ roles have been relegated to smaller parts. As Ollie though, even if it’s a supporting role, he’s allowed to showcase his talent and step further into the spotlight.
While the laughs don’t always work, Molly Singer’s charming tone wins you over in the end. Make no mistake. This is designed to be an R-rated comedy in its fullest form. Nevertheless, there’s a heart underneath the coarse language that breaks through the beer guzzling.
With this in mind, Singer sets itself apart with it surprisingly modern mindset. While the ‘college comedy’ is often known for its distinctly masculine gaze, there’s a modern wisdom imported into Singer that serves the film well. Comments about lessons in consent and conversations around social media speak to a generation that is forced to find itself with an intentional sense of self-awareness.
But Palmer uses this tone to delve into a very interesting question that we don’t normally find in this particular genre. Through the evolution of Elliot, Molly Singer seems concerned with notions larger than simply being popular or overcoming his lack of confidence. Instead, there’s a genuine belief that he wants to be a good man. (Frankly, I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard a phrase like that in the film of this nature.)
In short, Elliot doesn’t just want to be the popular kid on campus. He wants to be a man of quality.
In Molly Singer, Elliot is depicted as masculine, but he values and elevates women. He is humble but he still knows how to party. In this way, the film keeps its bravado but acknowledges the line of toxicity. It’s a fascinating blend for a ‘college comedy’ and still manages not to browbeat the viewer with long speeches or melodrama.
Admittedly, The Re-Education of Molly Singer is not a film that will be for everyone. With its wild humour and R-rated tone, more people will give it a chance. If Molly Singer were a frat, it’s one that wants to invite everyone to the party. Even if someone interested in except in the invitation, it’s definitely a party worth attending.
The Re-Education of Molly Singer is available in theatres on Friday, September 29th, 2023.