Well, not quite. While Robin Williams does play a poetry teacher, and there is the faking of a suicide note, there is much, much more to the film than that.
Robin Williams is Lance Clayton, a poetry teacher, as noted above. However, unlike John Keating, his class is very unpopular and he does not inspire his students at all. He is also a struggling writer who has not been able to get anything published. His girlfriend, Claire, is a pretty young art teacher, but she's reluctant to make their relationship public and seems to be spending a lot of time with the handsome and charming English teacher Mike. And as if all that wasn't bad enough, his son, Kyle, is a surly, porn-obsessed, misogynist, Jerkass.
Much like Psycho, most of the film's plot is driven by a Spoiler that happens early on in the film. However, the film is not old enough for this to be a case of It Was His Sled / All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game".
This film was made in 2008 and opened at Sundance in early 2009, and is now on DVD and Blu-Ray. It was directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, who also directed Shakes the Clown (in which Robin has an uncredited cameo) and Sleeping Dogs Lie, a romantic comedy where a girl reveals she fellated a dog in college and her relationships start to fall apart (We don't make these things up, folks).
This film provides examples of:
- The Ace: Mike, the resident Cool Teacher who is successful in ways Lance isn't (popular with students and staff, managed to get a story published in The New Yorker, has a close relationship with his kids).
- Alcoholic Parent: Andrew's unseen mother.
- As Himself: Bruce Hornsby.
- Asshole Victim: Kyle. Lance, society and the world are all probably better off for it.
- Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: Apparently activities like rocket building and watching movies doesn't appeal to the son.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: When we first see Lance's sparse class, he gets frustrated when one student just reads the lyrics to "Under Pressure" and claims them as his own, asking that his students strive for original and, more importantly, personal creations. This is followed by a female student reading a very detailed poem about having her period.
- Bittersweet Ending: Lance is a social outcast, but he no longer has to live with the guilt of his success based on lies about his son's death.
- Caught with Your Pants Down: Lance catches Kyle performing Autoerotic Asphyxiation in the beginning. The second time is much less fortunate.
- Contemptible Cover: Some people who otherwise would have seen this film were driven away by the poster (above), since no one seems to have told the designers that "red text on a white background" has become synonymous with extremely horrible movies. Also, considering the last Robin Williams film to use the "red text on a white background" cliche was License To Wed... thank goodness the DVD cover is much different.
- Dead Artists Are Better: Zig-zagged. Kyle was not an artist while he was alive. The only worthwhile thing he ever did was masturbate and leer after any woman who couldn't see him. It's not until Lance, a skilled by struggling writer, forges his suicide note (and Kyle isn't around to disprove any of it) that he's seen as a sensitive poet acting like a jerk.
- Erotic Asphyxiation: How Kyle dies.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: Though "friend" may be a stretch. Kyle has exactly one friend, Andrew, and even he's on the receiving end of a considerable amount of abuse. Literally everyone else at school hates how much of a misanthropic, sexist asshole Kyle is.
- Hate Sink: Kyle is a loathsome teenager with absolutely no redeeming qualities, and exists solely for the audience to hate him.
- Jerk Ass Has A Point: As unpleasant and dumb as he is, Kyle still makes an accurate observation of Claire being stuck up and fake.
- Male Frontal Nudity: Robin Williams strips down to only his socks for the final scene where Lance jumps off a diving board after revealing the truth about what happened to Kyle. Not meant as Fanservice or even Fan Disservice, but symbolic of how he's stripped off everything from his old life and become reborn. Most viewers still call it Fan Disservice (unless of course they're really into Robin Williams). Incidentally, this is the only part of the film interviewers seem to want to talk about with Robin and Bobcat. Robin and Bobcat are more than happy to answer, however.
- MayDecember Romance: Lance is considerably older than Claire, depending on whether Lance is supposed to be around the same age as Robin Williams or not. He even states that she wasn't even born when he was a high schooler.
- Mood Whiplash: Claire sexually teasing and fondling Lance is followed right by Kyle's death.
- Most Writers Are Writers: Lance Clayton is a struggling author.
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes it seem like it's just about Robin Williams raising an extremely difficult son. They do show clips of Robin's nude pool dive from the ending, but they make it seem more comical than it really is. On the other hand...
- Only Sane Man: Andrew, Kyle's only friend who is the only one unconvinced by his "journals" since he knew Kyle well enough to know that it's completely unfitting.
- Post-Mortem Conversion: A father recasting his worthless son as a tragic idol after he dies from Autoerotic Asphyxiation.
- School Uniforms Are the New Black: Andrew. As mentioned on the commentary, this is because he dislikes going home because of his alcoholic mother.
- Shout-Out: Lance quotes Simon Pegg on modern zombies ("Death is an impediment, not an energy drink").
- Spoiler Cover: Although the trailer presents the film as a standard disconnected father/uninterested son plot, the first words on the back cover are: After his son dies in an embarrassing accident...
- Teens Are Monsters: Kyle.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Anyone who read any news articles on the film before they saw it would already know that Kyle dies. The Netflix blurb also spoils that point.