Johnny Depp is many things, but predictable is not one of them. The immensely talented actor has seemingly made it a life's mission to choose interesting characters to bring to life on the big screen.
One of my favorite Johnny Depp characters is Guy Lapointe that he portrayed in two of Kevin Smith's more bizarre offerings Tusk and Yoga Hosers. The Canadian version of Jacques Clouseau, Guy Lapointe is both wonderfully inept and uncannily successful in his masterful deductions. And like Depp himself, you just never know what will come next.
For Johnny Depp, his latest performance is one that seems right in line with his Guy Lapointe character in The Professor. Depp plays Richard, the titular Professor, who has just found out that he has only six months to live. Given his impending demise, Richard decides to make some radical changes in his life and teaching curriculum with both poignant and hilarious consequences.
The Professor is one of those films that will most likely get a myriad of responses depending on your tolerance for Johnny Depp. The critics have long ago checked out on Depp and the smattering of reviews out there from critics prove this point. However, there's an interesting disconnect between critics and "real people."
Non-critics seemingly enjoy the movie much more than the "experts" according to Rotten Tomatoes and I guess that I'm not an expert because I found The Professor to be quite enjoyable and poignant in a way that such films tend to flub up in the end.
Richard flies through all of the stages of grief upon finding out about his diagnosis and settles into something like apathy. He makes a conscious decision to live his best life without the constraints that society normally places on a man of his esteem and his profession. He openly solicits his students for pot and suggests to his wife that they sleep with whomever they want.
Naturally, this counter-culture attitude in the classroom will conjure up visions of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society and you wouldn't be wrong. While The Professor mostly mines the situation for comedy, there are rare gems of enlightenment along the way that will hit home with the audience if you let it.
Interestingly, Richard's bold declaration of polygamy to his wife and her admission of infidelity actually brings the pair closer together. Perhaps there's something there to be said about how the masks that we present to our partners actually prevent the very intimacy that we hope to create. Or, you know, honesty is the best policy. Don't worry though, there are plenty of laughs to be had at the expense of this infidelity as the film tries its best not to dwell on Richard's impending doom as much as how this diagnosis is actually a new lease on life - albeit a much shorter version.
The cast is filled with wonderful veterans such as Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston and Zoey Deutch. They are each given their shot to shine and grab this opportunity by the horns. Rosemarie and Ron have shared the screen numerous times and their established chemistry really helps to sell the infidelity storyline and give Johnny Depp two wonderful foils to play off of in some of the film's more dramatic moments.
At the end, The Professor doesn't tug too much on the sentimental heartstrings, opting instead for a pitch-perfect ending that literally plays up its "road less taken" motif throughout the film. While some may see the film is disjointed and ragged in spots, isn't that real life? It is and it is also one of the points that the movie is trying to make. Life is short, we are not perfect and we will probably be a whole lot happier if we simply embraced these facts and lived accordingly.
The Professor is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.