Tribeca Film Festival 2015 Review: Tenured

Breakups can be hard, there’s no doubt about that. They can leave a person feeling vulnerable and utterly alone. They can also provide for some very interesting cinema. The dissolution of a relationship can either be heartbreakingly sad or pretty darn hilarious. The new independent dramedy Tenured is a little bit of both, leaning more on the side of comedy and the results are really rather good. With a cast full of gifted comedic actors and a sharp script, this is a movie that everyone should see. Not only are the leading actors solid but so is the supporting cast, which consists of talented young 10-year-olds. All in all, Tenured is a winner.

Ethan Collins (Gil Zabarsky) is an unorthodox fifth grade elementary school teacher. He is frank with his students and always tells it like it is. This offbeat approach to education is made even more offbeat when Ethan’s wife Lauren (Emily Wilson) cheats on him and sends his life into a downward spiral. Ethan then decides to put on a school play with the hopes of winning her back. Assistant Principal Gruber (Kate Flannery) is hip to Ethan and spends the majority of the film trying to get him fired and the proceedings are not only funny but sweet and thought-provoking.

Based on the 2012 short film Teacher of the YearTenured is a quirky little movie that will undoubtedly entertain audiences. Gil Zabarsky serves as co-writer and star and he is in fine form here. His everyman antihero persona is someone you can really root for and his journey throughout the film is truly fascinating. He wrote the film with Chris Modoono, who actually directed both this and the short and each is done with the utmost care and attention to craft.

With Zabarsky being the main attraction in Tenured, one must also check out the younger cast members who are downright hilarious. One can’t help but be reminded of School of Rock with the sassy children who seem to be too smart for their own good. The chemistry they have with Zabarsky is priceless and it is one of the film’s best features. Also worth noting is Kate Flannery (The Office), who steals many of the film’s scenes as the uptight “villain” trying to ruin Ethan Collins. She definitely needs to steal more movie scenes more often.

At its core, Tenured is a story about a man wrought with depression and searching for answers to life’s tough questions. Ethan Collins isn’t a cookie cutter character, he is a unique and flawed individual, someone who goes to great lengths to try and repair the damage in his life. Zabarsky and Modoono have put together a tender and fun film here and people are in for real treat. Though it will probably fall through the cracks into movie obscurity, Tenured is a special film. The humor is fresh and the performances, pretty great. Zabarsky is a comic genius and this film is powerful proof of that. Here’s hoping we get to see more of this talented comedic actor in the near future.

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