Premise: In 1987 New Jersey, an aspiring rocker can win the big break of a lifetime opening for Bon Jovi, but when handicapped by a life threatening hairspray allergy, he attempts to cleanse the world of all hair-metal, beginning with hometown heroes Bon Jovi.
Why You Should Read (from writer): So, did you see X-Men this weekend and say to yourself “Damn! They really nailed what it was like to be a teenager in the 80s!” Then have I got a screenplay for you.
As aspiring writers of film, we all love movies and have our concerns about the current state of cinema. If you’re anything like me, when you open up Rotten Tomatoes and see the latest 370 million dollar CGI crap-fest that was written and rewritten by a team of fourteen professional writers using source material that was based on a video game, that was based on a theme park ride, that was based on a cartoon, that was based on a Hasbro toy, that was based on a different Japanese toy, that was based on a religion, that was based on a fever-dream induced by syphilis, and it’s sitting number one at the box office with a very robust 18% on the tomato-meter, then a little piece of you dies.
Now imagine you wake up one day with a literal allergy to CGI. You can’t go to a Cineplex or pass a Redbox or “Netflix and chill” without developing a rash and having your throat swollen shut. Your dreams of working in Hollywood crushed, because movies are literally trying to kill you. Would you lock yourself in your basement and cry yourself to sleep every night on your pillow of unproduced, Oscar caliber spec scripts or would you do everything in your power to rid mankind of the Michael Bays of the world? Well, Bon Jovi Sucks! is a slightly more realistic version of just that but with rock n’ roll.
It’s a subject I think most of us can relate to on some level, even if you haven’t a recollection nor an opinion of 80s popular culture. Plus it’s a comedy so it better damn well be funny. I’m really looking forward to some of that always great SS community feedback.
Writer: Eric Boyd
Details: 99 pages
It’s going to be a wild weekend at the box office with a five-tet of new films coming to theaters. For starters we have Independence Day. I know people loved the first film but I always mark my viewing of Independence Day as the first day I learned about the importance of screenwriting. That was one of the worst-written scripts I’ve ever come across in movie form. Roland Emmerich seems incapable of understanding how writing actually works. And to think he made a movie about Shakespeare. At least Jeff Goldblum is back. We need more Jeff Goldblum in this world.
Then we have The Shallows – A SPEC SALE! Not many of these make it to theaters, so I’ll be rooting for it to do well. From there we have shameless Oscar hopeful, Free State of Jones. When your campaign screams, “Please give us the Oscar!” I’m out. A movie should stand on its own. Speaking about standing, Swiss Army Man is one of the most original films to come out in a decade. Dead Ratcliffe practically guarantees I’ll see this. And finally Nicolas Refn has a new movie out, The Neon Demon. I don’t trust Refn as a writer, so I won’t be seeing this. But, at the very least, it’ll be unique, which is nice.
What about Bon Jovi Sucks? Will it ever make it to a multi-plex? I suppose that depends on your definition of “multi-plex.” It may also depend on your definition of Bon Jovi.
17 year-old Eddie may be the only person living in 1987 who hates Jon Bon Jovi. While the rest of his band, Cured Herpes, thinks the fluffy-haired one is the next coming of Jesus Christ, Eddie thinks his music sucks ass. To add insult to injury, Eddie is allergic to hairspray. So even if he wanted to to be in a Bon Jovi inspired band, he couldn’t be.
After Eddie’s unhealthy hatred of Bon Jovi loses him his friends and band, Eddie meets the new girl in school, Stacy, a Seattle transplant who believes in cool music, JUST LIKE HIM! In fact, she starts teaching him about the upcoming Seattle music scene, and finally Eddie feels like he has purpose again.
No teenage music movie would be complete without a Battle of the Bands contest, and Stacy introduces Eddie to a new band of guys who ALSO hate Bon Jovi. They’re not very good, but with Eddie’s guitar-shredding skills, they may have just enough to win it all. But will Eddie’s obsession with a man who has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on his life be his undoing? Or will Eddie finally become okay with Jersey’s version of Jesus?
A couple of quick thoughts here. Celebrity names in the title are a cheap but effective way to get your script noticed. Remember that in a business this competitive, every little advantage counts. And if you can present a reader with some familiarity in the title, you’re more likely to get a response than having zero familiarity. For example, which one of these scripts are you more likely to read? “George Clooney Must Die” or “Fallen Fields?” The first one contains familiarity. The second is just words.
When you do go with these titles, you have two options: the obvious route or the ironic route. The obvious route would be something like, “Murdering Donald Trump.” People hate Donald Trump. So building a title around that is going to get those people charged up. Then there’s the ironic way, “How I Destroyed Oprah Winfrey,” where you go negative against someone beloved. I think the second option is more clever.
Unfortunately, Bon Jovi Sucks’ problems extend beyond its title. For starters, I don’t have an opinion on Bon Jovi. He’s so blase that it’s hard to care about someone loving him OR hating him. So right from the start, it was difficult for me to get invested. I kept saying, “Dude, who cares? He’s just a guy with a few hit songs.”
Bigger problems started creeping up during the dialogue. We have characters saying things like, “It’s amazing, right?” “Chode.” “Jihad.” “Mind-fuck.” “Take a valium.” These are terms that were not being used in 1987, and the reason this is relevant is because I now know that the writer isn’t old enough to understand the era he’s writing about.
Obviously, you don’t need to have lived in the era you’re writing about to write a good script. If that were the case, how would anybody write period pieces? But if you haven’t lived in that time, you better study your fucking ass off and be the resident expert on that era. Because as soon as we know you’re bullshitting? Suspension of disbelief is done, and we no longer believe what’s happening.
I read an interesting article on that Cold War show The Americans. One of the teenage actors in the show was in a high school classroom scene and was given a calculator. When they started shooting, someone noticed that she was pressing the buttons in the way one would text on a smartphone. They stopped, went in, and explained that, back then, you pressed buttons with a single finger. She changed the action, and they continued shooting.
Small thing? Sort of. But sort of not. Authenticity is a huge component of writing convincing fiction. Every mistake you make makes your script less convincing. Never forget that.
Structurally, Bon Jovi Sucks sort of limps along, not unlike a lazy 80s ballad. Thing are happening (Eddie’s rushed to the hospital due to his allergy, his band dumps him, his girlfriend dumps him), but there doesn’t seem to be any urgency to the story. I remember when I first saw American Pie, another teenage high school film, and you got the sense that there wasn’t a lot of time to find dates to the prom. The characters needed to make their moves quickly. There’s nothing like that here to propel the story forward.
Finally, I never really understood why Eddie hated Bon Jovi so much. The rock star didn’t personally do anything to him. Eddie just disliked his music. While that kind of setup might’ve worked in a really broad comedy where logic isn’t as important, Eric seemed to be going for something deeper here. And if that’s the case, we needed a more personal reason for why Eddie despises this man so much. Without that, it seemed like the only reason Eddie hated Bon Jovi was so that we’d have a movie.
Bon Jovi Sucks wasn’t funny enough to be a broad comedy. It wasn’t serious enough to be a thoughtful comedy. It leaves you unsure of why the writer wanted to write the script.
Script link: Bon Jovi Sucks!
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: It’s hard to make miserable characters work. I’m not talking about unlikable characters. It’s possible to make them work. But characters who are miserable – who don’t like their lives – who take that out on others – it’s hard for a reader to care for or want to root for them. Midway through Bon Jovi Sucks, Stacy says something that caught my eye: “Wow. I think this is the first time I’ve seen you really happy.” Duh, that’s why I don’t like this guy. He’s miserable. Nobody likes miserable people.