Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were diagnosed with a terminal disease, and had months to live? The Professor is a movie that tackles this question head on. It portrays the life of a middle-aged man who has just received this diagnosis. The film uses a mixture of humor and drama to present a moving situation that may have you asking yourself what you would do if this happened to you. I did not expect much when I rented this movie from Redbox, but was pleasantly surprised.
Johnny Depp is Richard Brown, an English professor at a prestigious university. In the first scene, we see him in the doctor’s office receiving the news that he has terminal lung cancer, and has months to live. This appears to change his whole outlook on life. He doesn’t become distraught, but instead changes how he acts and lives in ways he would not have lived before. His wife, Veronica (Rosemarie DeWitt), and his college-aged daughter, Olivia (Odessa Young) know nothing about his sickness for most of the movie. He attempts to tell them at dinner, but a tumultuous scene delays this. Instead, Richard tells his best friend and colleague, Peter (Danny Huston) who often cries and prays for his friend.
Through most of the movie, we watch how Richard instructs his class in an unorthodox fashion. His students consist of a bit over a handful of students because of a scene where he convinces most of his students to leave, and still receive a “C” at the end of the semester. He also only gives his students one assignment. They must read a book and teach it to the class. Richard brings his class outside and to a bar to continue his lectures. Because of his new found charisma, he deals with students who are attracted to him, from both sexes. His actions get him in trouble with his school’s president, Harry (Ron Livingstone), who he knows is having an affair with his wife, Veronica. Depp handles the situation well, as he holds the affair over his boss’s head. With this trump card, Richard can do just about anything he wants as a professor.
The Professor was based upon a serious issue, terminal cancer, but was laced with just the right amount of humor. One line that had me laughing was when Richard’s wife asked him if his equipment still worked, and he replied that he didn’t know because “it’s laid dormant for years.” Another scene had him drop a wine glass after giving a serious speech and his boss, yelling, “Dammit Richard, that was crystal” as the scene faded out. With the humor was a message, which can be summed up with one line that Richard said. At one time, when he was lecturing his students he stated, “Maturity is only how much misery you can swallow.” This about sums up the message The Professor is trying to get across.