After a three-year hiatus, director Jordan Ross helms his second feature, The Tutor, from Vertical. Ryan King pens the film screenplay, serving as his sophomore effort.
An in-demand tutor for the East Coast monied elite, Ethan (Garrett Hedlund) lands a high-paying assignment to instruct a billionaire's son, Jackson (Noah Schnapp), at a remote New York waterfront estate. Within a short time, after he begins teaching, Ethan begins to realize that his student's interest in his life is bordering on obsession. As tension grows, Jackson's accusations threaten to expose Ethan's perceived dark secrets to his pregnant girlfriend, Annie (Victoria Justice), and the authorities. There is no doubt that Ethan has a long way to go before proving his innocence despite Jackson's allegations, but it is up to him, and only him, to bring them to light.
It's astonishing to believe that Garrett Hedlund broke through twenty years ago in Friday Night Lights. Since then, he has built an impressive career and worked with some of the finest directors in Hollywood, including Ang Lee, the late great John Singleton, and Lee Daniels. I was surprised that he took on this role. Ross introduces us to our lead character showcasing his tutoring skills. One day Ethan receives a phone call from his buddy Chris to tutor Jackson, and the money is too lucrative to turn down.
Early on, Jackson gives off the vibe of an angst-ridden teenager, and Ethan knows something is off. Ross and his screenwriter slowly peel away the layers that reveal Jackson's psyche and true intentions. Initially, the film's route appears to take a wit battle between teacher and student. However, there are a few more layers. Jackson's family are overly entitled and thinks money can buy everything, so there's nothing to speak about them.
Hedlund runs through the motions in a paycheck performance, while the lovely Victoria Justice is only here as eye candy. As for Noah Schnapp, who plays Will Byers on the popular Netflix series Stranger Things, I have to say that he has taken the "haunted boy" trope he played in the show's second season to another level in this film that shows he can have a career as an adult.
While I finished the film with its short run time, I didn't agree with some of the narrative choices as they came across as shock value. Furthermore, some of the film's plot twists never rise above Lifetime-style theatrics.
Final Grade: D+
The Tutor opens In Limited Theaters on March 24, 2023