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THE TUTOR (2023) review

March 29, 2023


written by: Ryan King
produced by: Robert Ogden Barnum, Eric Binns, Bavand Karim, Christopher Kopp & Joey Stanton
directed by: Jordan Ross
rated: R (for language, some violence and sexual material)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: March 24, 2023


By the end of “The Tutor”, I wound up asking myself why I watch certain movies. I don’t get paid to write about them (although I’m not opposed to it) and outside of a publicist, no one is asking me to view and review any specific movie. It’s all up to me. So, why this movie? Well, sometimes a movie doesn’t look all that great, but there’s a certain curiosity factor that gets the better of me and I wonder just how bad a movie can be and…and could it possibly surprise me and wind up being good. In this case, the answer to the latter is definitely “No” and in response to the former, “Apparently Not”.

Sometimes just looking at a movie poster and reading a synopsis conjures a certain nostalgia and there was something about “The Tutor” that piqued my curiosity. Maybe it was that it reminded me of the kind of character-driven thriller that would’ve been released in the 90s. I don’t know if screenwriter Ryan King (best known for his acting roles television series like “Platonic” and “Person of Interest”) and director Jordan Ross (who last helmed the thriller “Thumper” from 2017) had that in mind, but the simple and transparent premise and transparent one-note performances deflate any tension they either of them had hoped to convey in this limp and unintentionally comical thriller.



The story of “The Tutor” is set somewhere in the suburbs of New York City (despite being filmed in Birmingham, Alabama) – or possibly Long Island – and starts off with an interesting set-up of characters and setting for at least the first thirty minutes. Ethan (Garret Hedlund) works as a tutor, mostly for students in affluent families, getting calls from his boss, Josh (Michael Aaron Milligan), who sets him up with work. Ethan has apparently had such high word-of-mouth praise that he winds up getting requests from prospective clients and won of them is from a local billionaire who’s willing to pay $2,500 a day for him to tutor his 17-year-old son, Jackson (Noah Schnapp), and he would even receive room and board and the swanky estate.

Considering his girlfriend, Annie (Victoria Justice) is pregnant, such a gig is hard to pass up for Ethan, who at this point in life is hoping to provide for his new family. But, maybe this isn’t the best time to be taking a job that has him staying on the property where his student resides and maybe this is too good to be true. The catch of it all is that Jackson is a quiet and awkward kid, with a simmering anger that’s brewing under the surface. Is this just a rich teen thing or is there something going on with Jackson?

Does Jackson live there alone? Sort of, but not really. His “like a brother” cousin (played by a sleep-walking Johnny Weston) is also there and is described as someone who stays at the estate when he’s in town. One day he assists in getting Jackson to bribe Ethan out of a session, by encouraging Jackson to literally hand over $5,000 in cash. This cousin character serves no real purpose, nor does any other family member of Jackson’s, to be honest.



Soon enough it becomes clear (at least to us) that this job is too good to be true. Ethan becomes alarmingly aware that Jackson is obsessed with him and one gets the sense that this didn’t develop overnight. Certainly Ethan is unnerved by such awkward creepiness from Jackson and how the disturbed young man appears out of the blue at inappropriate times outside of their tutoring sessions. Jackson is estranged from his absent and ambivalent father and who’s mother mysteriously left him, which may be why he develops an unhealthy fixation for Ethan. When Ethan tries to draw a line between teacher and pupil, the situation takes a sinister turn and inevitably it becomes clear there’s a shared connection from their past, leading to a ridiculously absurd third act.

By the time that shared connection is revealed, it comes so far out of left field that it feels like “The Tutor” has turned into a completely different movie and not a good one. The two leads switch hysteric antics, which finds Hedlund’s typically mild-mannered Ethan cranking up the crazy in an unbelievable manner, delivering regurgitated lines like, “Come out, come out, wherever you are?” The weird tonal change and overall quality (from the screenplay AND the performances) as the movie progresses is a disappointing downward spiral.

There’s no real build up, since hardly any indication is given prior to such a reveal. It’s supposed to provide context to Jackson’s behavior all along, but it just doesn’t add up. This could’ve been a good thriller if it relished in a certain amount of pulpy weirdness, but instead “The Tutor” is so hampered by a flimsy recognizable premise and dialogue crippled by cliche lines.




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