Dark Comedy “The Professor” and Mortality Films

I heard nothing about Johnny Depp‘s recent dark comedy The Professor when I trolled through Amazon’s waters for something new to rent. It was a love/hate experience. One of those films that has great ideas and witty occasions but executed in a sloppy way that undermines the story. I really wanted to like the film. I love Johnny Depp. And I dislike much of his films. He has so much talent that shines forward in scenes, but he can’t seem to find a film that showcases him to the stature he belongs as an actor. In this film, his voice warbles and remains low and other accents from previous characters creep in. He doesn’t seem to know how to act the part. (2.5 stars) Yet, the ideas about the film come through and linger with me. 

Johnny plays a New England English academic who is diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He decides not to seek treatment knowing he has six months to live. This confrontation with mortality alters his perception of life and his teaching style. He throws away professionalism and embarks on a journey with his English students with a carpe diem approach including partying and random sex. In short, he throws away his authority and parties it up with his students while expecting earnest conversations. Time is not to be wasted. The movie is a cross between Old School and Dead Poet’s Society. It’s profane and not too funny much of the time. Too bad, since stories with themes that include the insights to a meaningful life appeal to me, and I love a good dark comedy. Maybe you liked it?

Finally, at the end of the movie, the message arrives. Treat your days as though they were your last. Don’t be a part of the 98 percent who embrace mediocrity. Strive to be an individual and live life with meaning. Well, it’s certainly sage advice we’ve heard of before in films. Do you recognize these famous lines?

“Make each day count.  Hear, hear! To making it count.”

“Earn this.”  

“Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

“Life is hard. It’s supposed to be. If we didn’t suffer, we wouldn’t learn a thing.”

“Don’t look back. It drags at your heart till you can’t do anything but look back.”

It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great.”

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

“A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

“I do not expect us to agree about everything, but I would much rather have you believe in something I don’t agree with than to accept everything blindly. And that begins with thinking rationally.”

“Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it. You’re going to get back on that horse, and I’m going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we’re gonna go, go, go!”

Have you noticed many films with the best messages are played by a dynamic duo from the 80s and 90s? Do you think there is a correlation between the memorable lines said by the characters played by Tom Hanks and Robin Williams? That is to say, the sentimentality incurred by their famous lines made them endearing to the public. Another way of putting it — their famous lines made the actor, not necessarily their talent? I do.

What are some of your favorite lines that give insight into the meaning of life?


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Jack, Titanic; Capt. Miller, Saving Private Ryan; John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society; Abileen Clark, The Help; Jesse, Before Sunset; Scarlett, Gone with the Wind; Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own; Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring; The Wizard of Oz; Santosh Patel, The Life of Pi; Ethel, On Golden Pond. 



32 thoughts on “Dark Comedy “The Professor” and Mortality Films

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  1. I like Depp too, but had never heard of this. ‘Terminal’ films can be depressing, and I am not a huge fan of either Hanks, or Williams. Do I have favourite lines from films about the meaning of life? I don’t think I do. But Oscar Wilde said it all for me.
    “We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”.
    I am always looking at the stars, Cindy. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pete. Hanks has many films where his character gives memorable lines — Gump, “Life is a box of chocolates…” and the same goes for Williams – Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, many others, and it occurred to me how their choices in films catapulted their popularity. I don’t consider either one to be a “great” actors. Then there’s Johnny, who is a great actor but has made traditionally extreme, weird characters and he is less thought of…. IMO.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes,, they were memorable lines, but I found them rather ‘corny’. I suppose I stick with Welles, and his ‘Cuckoo clock speech’, or the last scene in ‘Touch of Evil.
        ‘He was a great detective all right…
        but a bad cop’. Not quite what you were after, I suspect. 🙂 x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Erggh WordPress. I’m sorry Cindy, the silly website has me re-following all my favorite sites. New computer + WP tracking makes for a series of annoyances. It thinks I am a different user than Tom. Sorry about that.

    Great post here. I really wish I knew more of those fantastic quotes at the end by heart. A few I got. John Keating is an obvious one. As is The Wizard of Oz. I enjoy movies that make me contemplate my own mortality as well. I had never even heard of this Johnny Depp film but I will give it a look sometime. I too like the guy and totally agree he never gets a role where he can really shine. I thought Black Mass was better, but that performance was still mostly beholden to all that make-up and stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah! It’s like he has to have a mask. In this film, he hid behind a gruffy beard. He was out-of-sorts. Too much shock gags (I’m doing drugs with me teacher, I’m sleeping with my teacher, etc.) instead of developing a character that faces his mortality. There are funny moments, but not many. Anyway, it had me thinking about films that shine with the advice that makes the movie memorable. I am happy you stopped by today!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have not seen this film yet so I can not comment. Great post though 🙂 Nevertheless, I am actually a big fan of Johnny Depp’s 90’s work and even some of his 2000’s and 2010’s work. As for sentiment, If it is done right than it works on all sorts of levels. Nevertheless, I have to do a whole blog entry on that to explain my theory 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    P.S. I know you and Beetley Pete did a blog entry last year on the films of director Brian De Palma (I remember it fondly :)) and a documentary came out a few years back entitled De Palma directed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow and it consists of De Palma alone talking about his career to them on camera and footage and stills of his films among other things. Here is a link to the trailer below:

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t know. I don’t read the People mag unless I am in the Dr. office. 😉
          To speculate, he is human. So I am sure there are distractions affecting his work. He has spent so many years playing strange characters. I have often wondered if actors can shake it off? I wonder if he has any idea what “normalcy” is?

          Liked by 1 person

  4. A movie line that sums up the experience of life?…Hmmm…I guess I’ll go with “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Margo–All About Eve. But did you know that’s a bastardization of the actual phrase which says “bumpy night” instead of “bumpy ride”? Anyway, that’s all I can think of.
    As for Tom Hanks…I think he’s a great actor. He has chosen great films to be a part of. He has very good instincts in that way.
    Johnny Depp is a very talented actor, but, yeah, he’s too caught up in quirk. He doesn’t seem interested in the plight of the common man. He’s the anti Tom Hanks kind of like Denis Hopper is the anti…Oh I don’t know…I’ll say Jimmy Stewart. I know that’s not particularly apt, but I’m sticking to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Funny. I make it my business to know about all the new movies that come out and I had not heard of this. A little research told me why. It went direct to streaming in May so it never played in theaters. I must admit it has been a while since Johnny Depp did something I liked. Black Mass was good. Anyway, appreciate your review.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. regarding Depp, he is not a weirdo at all. he is a regular guy who likes to play his guitar and talk about poetry. for a period, he was the best actor in hollywood, but he has so far failed to make the transition from youth idol to middle age actor. if anything assisted his derailment, if such a derailment occured, it was that horible pirates franchise. the only possible connection i see with hopper is that hopper was a disciple nd friend of james dean and depp a disciple and friend of marlon brando…..charlie chaplin was also a huge influence, and from studying chaplin he learned the techniques of physical comedy, especially for such films as edward sissorshands and ed wood. but like a lot of flashy young actors, de niro being a prime example, he became dull when playing non descript characters in middle age.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi stranger, glad you came visiting. I agree with what you say. I think the connection between Hopper and Depp vs. Stewart and Hanks is that the first pair typically play roles that rebel or are not associated with the common man. Stewart and Hanks typically are associated with the plight of the common man. It is an apt comparison methinks.

    How have you been? Anything good you’ve seen lately?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ive been rewatching the complete works of eric rohmer in sequence, very entertaining and thought provoking. today i saw scorsese document on dylans rolling thunder revue, as a sidebar to dylans own renaldo and clara, it had some interesting sequences, but was inferior to dylans masterpiece in every way. i finally fnished work on a hard rock EP ive been working on since december, as well as the songs for two of the four collections of new solo songs that ill be releasing through july to october, i also read a book that made me think of you , about the hollywood studio system. i only disagreed with about 10% of it. im going to email you an e book copy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you prefer Rohmer to Jean-Luc Godard?
      I am ignorant of French film. Who should I watch first? Truffaut? Any love for Agnes Varda? I watched a cool doc on her recently.
      If you only disagree ten percent, those are odds I’d bet. Thank you for thinking of me and I will look forward to reading it. xx


      1. funny you should ask, rohmer has always ben considered the old man of the new wave and godard the young hotshot.. but in truth godard was the old grump, while rohmer remained youthful to the end. all of rohmers movies could be edited into one gigantic work, like proust or balzac.. he is a wonderful writer director…..but godard must be credited, in his post new wave work, after he declared the end of cinema, with creating an new kind of film..more essay than story, deeeper and richer than rohmers work. so my answer is that i prefer rohmer to the new wave godard, but consider godard ultimately to be the more significant ffilm maker…..varda is a lesser talent, but vital. i would place her alongside louis malle in the pantheon i recommend starting with cleo from 5 to 10.


  9. I finally caught up with The Professor. Thought Depp remarkable, one of his best performances. the things you criticized were, for me, the brave and dangerouus choices he made as an actor in order to make it real for the audience. The script was mostly crap, and those aphorisms you cited belong more in the sludge of a sentimental superficiality ofa Robin williams or Tom Hanks tearjerker. the Professor dealt with the real issues a person in this situation might face, and like his mentor Marlon Brando, Depp goes deep into the universal sub consciousness to explore the outer edges of mortality. His style is not to impress with a self consciously nuanced performance filled wth dramatic and cathartic highs and lows. Rather. he shows us the interior reflection that makes us at times afraid to look into the mirror, afraid to confide in loved ones, and yet brave enough to look death in the fac just a little bit at a time, It is to bad the script was so limited. The events became dull even when the performance was gripping.


    1. I am not surprised you liked his performance even tho the script was limited and not so funny. Did you see his performance,on Murder on the Orient Express? A silly movie made better by a solid performance by Depp.


  10. “The person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.”
    A great message for mediocrity.

    Liked by 1 person

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