Once upon a time, screenwriter Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) was on top of the world - a Golden Globe Award and a hit movie to his name, a beautiful wife and son, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of sexy British wit and charm. But that was fifteen years ago: now, he's divorced, approaching fifty, hasn't written a hit film in years, and is going broke.
Luckily, his agent has a gig for him - albeit far away from Hollywood. A university in upstate New York is looking for a writer-in-residence to teach a course on screenwriting, and with an empty wallet as his motivation, Keith can't say no. In bucolic Binghamton, he quickly discovers that his celebrity status hasn't faded and he finds himself in a compromising position with a star-struck pupil, Karen (Bella Heathcote), who is enrolled in his class, and his other students seem naïve and simple. Hoping to give minimal attention to his duties and focus on writing a new script, Keith inadvertently gets off on the wrong foot with a ranking faculty member (Allison Janney), a humourless Jane Austen scholar; though he does quickly befriend two eccentric faculty colleagues who promise to show him the ropes (Chris Elliott, J.K. Simmons).
Keith's attitude begins to turn when he meets Holly (Marisa Tomei), a single mom working two jobs to earn her bachelor's degree. Though Holly has a new boyfriend - and Keith isn't very savvy about covering up his romance with Karen - the two find themselves connected by their mutual need for a second chance. When one of his pupils comes up with a screenplay that Keith knows will sell, he sees an opportunity to get out of teaching and go back to living the good life. But he's also discovered that teaching has given him that second chance at becoming a better man - and finds himself equally tempted to stay and see where his new talents take him.
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