I don’t give ratings like this to amateur scripts (or any scripts these days) very often. But I’m giving one today!
Amateur Friday Submission Process: To submit your script for an Amateur Review, send in a PDF of your script, a PDF of the first ten pages of your script, your title, genre, logline, and finally, why I should read your script. Use my submission address please: Carsonreeves3@gmail.com. Your script and “first ten” will be posted. If you’re nervous about the effects of a bad review, feel free to use an alias name and/or title. It’s a good idea to resubmit every couple of weeks so your submission stays near the top.
Premise: (from writer) A young Jewish woman in occupied France escapes the Nazis by changing places with a shop owner. But as her love grows for the other woman’s husband and child, so does her guilt.
About: This is…. Amateur Week SMACKDOWN – 5 scripts, all of which have been pre-vetted by the SRF (Scriptshadow Reader Faithful), vie for the Top Prize, an official endorsement from whoever the guy is who runs this site. Good luck to all!
Writer: Michael Whatling
Details: 111 pages – NOTE: This is a NEW DRAFT from the one originally posted on Amateur Offerings, with notes incorporated from those who read it.
Amateur Week Smackdown is coming to an end. Going into today, Tuesday’s entry, Ship Of The Dead, is the clear leader. It didn’t quite garner a “worth the read,” since its second half didn’t live up to its first. But it was the most marketable script, and the easiest to tweak, should someone want to buy it and turn it into a movie.
With that said, I’d been saving Patisserie for last because this one had gotten the best reception from all of you guys. Word on the street was that even a French A-list actress requested the script for a read. So if all else failed, I had a feeling Patisserie would save us from a trip to The Burning Fire Pit Of Forgotten Screenplays. Let us engage our Google Translation apps, jump on the Chunnel train, and dip our heinies in a little croissant butter. Time…..FOR SOME PATISSERIE!
It’s 1941. France is occupied by Germany. This means that every French town is infested with Nazi soldiers. Soldiers who are amping up their search for Jews. This is where our story begins. A group of Jews have been rounded up and marched through the streets of a small town, chained together, for everyone to see and understand who’s in control. These Nazis want the townsfolk to know that with the flick of a wrist, they could be heading to a concentration camp near you.
Emilie is one of these Jews. She’s stuck on the line. But when a fortunate trip by one of the older men occurs, it provides her with an opportunity to escape. So she darts over to a nearby Patisserie and scurries inside, all while an owner of the shop, the beautiful and innocent Mireille, is too stunned to say or do anything about it.
When the Germans realize they’ve lost the girl, they start freaking out. Realizing that they can’t show up to the camp one girl short, they grab Mireille, who somewhat resembles Emilie, clobber her unconscious, and go on their merry way, numbers intact.
When Mireille’s husband, Andre, comes home, he finds former Jewish prisoner Emile hiding in his shop, which he’s a little more than confused by. But Andre’s a nice guy, so he gives Emile some food and lets her play with his 2 year old son while he waits for Mireille to come home. Of course, Mireille doesn’t come home. Not that day, not the next day, and not the next.
Andre’s confused at first, then angry, and then obsessed about his wife’s disappearance. Unfortunately, nobody will talk to him about what happened that day. Nobody wants to piss the German soldiers off. So they tell him to shut up and stop making trouble. Eventually, Andre comes to grips with the reality that his wife isn’t coming back. And slowly, almost by default, Elise assumes that wife/mother role in the family, even taking Mireille’s official identity.
It doesn’t take long for the Nazi soldiers to get suspicious, particularly a snide little rat named Egger, who takes a liking to both Elise and Andre’s baked goods. He notices that Andre and Elise don’t look right together, and lingers at the shop after his nightly shifts, asking questions that neither of them can easily answer. We get the feeling that sooner or later, this is all going to blow up. The question is, on which side will the casualties lie? And will Andre ever see his real wife again?
About midway through Patisserie I let out a big sigh, pushed my computer away, and took a drink of water. This is a longstanding cue for Miss Scriptshadow to look at me and say, “Good or bad?” I needed to think about that question. It wasn’t a simple answer. I finally offered a reserved, “Good.” Then I paused. “But boring good.”
I wasn’t aware what I meant by that at first. I mean, I don’t think there’s any question that Patisserie is the best-written script of the week. The writer transports you to a place and time via a mastery of prose and atmosphere that leaves most writers in the dust. Good writers seem to have this ability, where you’re not even aware you’re reading a script while you’re reading it. It all flows so naturally. It all feels so real.
But still, even though I was enjoying Patisserie, there was nothing jumping out at me. It was all very understated. “Boring good” might actually be a harsh assessment. But it was definitely the kind of good that’s hard to get excited about. So yeah, I wanted to finish the thing, but I didn’t NEED to finish the thing. And that’s an essential difference between a good script and a great one.
Well, not so fast, Carson. As I entered phase 2 of the script read, something happened. Every five pages, the script got better than the previous five pages. And I’ll tell you when I realized I had something special – it was the scene where Egger (huge spoiler) lets Andre and Emilie know he knows their secret, so they kill him. It was just a really tense well developed scene with tension and suspense and dramatic irony and surprise. Whatling had done a great job with all the previous Egger visits setting this moment up, and the result was this victorious feeling for finally taking down one of the bad guys, mixed with horror as we feared the repercussions of the act. From that point on, I was president of the Patisserie Fan Club.
But there’s nothing that could’ve prepared me for the climax. Now I’m going to get into some major spoilers here so I recommend you read the script before continuing. But here’s why I was so revved up about this. I always say that if you REALLY want to give us a character to remember, give them an impossible choice. Give them a choice where there is no right answer, and where the stakes for the choice are sky high. And if possible, place that choice during the climax.
When we’re looking at Mireille screaming at Andre in the middle of the street, to please tell the German officers that she’s his wife, I mean… I had to do the “Readjust.” The “Readjust” is when you sit straight up, make sure you’re totally comfortable, then go back to reading. Bad scripts never get the Readjust. I remain slouched back the whole time during a bad script.
But even WITH that piece of advice I so often preach, I couldn’t believe what Whatling did with that final chapter. A German officer brings Mireille over to Andre and says she’s claiming that Andre is her husband, and that Ellie is a Jew. With Ellie standing next to Andre, the soldier demands that he tell him which one of these women is his real wife. I honestly had no idea what he was going to say. It was one of the most tension-filled climaxes I’ve ever read. It was that good. And it’s that scene that pushed this up to an impressive for me.
And you know what else made this an impressive? It’s another thing I always preach. You want your main characters to be the kind of characters that actors would die to play. Make them Academy Award worthy characters. I’m not kidding with what I’m about to say. If this script gets into the right director’s hands? If the right people are making it? I could see it garnering TWO Academy awards, one for the lead (Emile), and one for supporting (Mireille). Female actresses just don’t get the opportunity to play characters like this very often.
But there’s a lot more to celebrate here. I love how the entire movie is built on one of the most dependable screenwriting tools there is – dramatic irony. We and Emilie know what Andre does not – that his wife was taken by the Germans. And it was Emile’s fault! This provides an undercurrent of tension and suspense throughout the entire script, as we’re wondering when this information is finally going to be disclosed to Andre, and how.
And Egger – what a brilliant villain. One way I know I’m dealing with a good writer is when the villain isn’t an over-the-top evil asshole. Egger was a coward. A conniving slimy two-face who smiles and pretends he’s your best buddy, all while stealing from you. These are the villains that really stick with audiences – the ones we truly want to see go down. And boy were we happy when Egger went down.
Besides the slow first half, I really only have one complaint. (spoiler) I don’t think Emilie should give herself up in the end. When Andre tells the officers that Emilie is his wife, and he’s walking away with Mireille pleading to him on her hands and knees, I think that’s the end of your movie. It doesn’t get any more powerful than that moment. And to end on that…holy shit would that have everyone talking as they leave the theater – creating the kind of word-of-mouth that only much bigger movies with much bigger budgets and marketing campaigns can achieve. Something about Emile going back to give herself up felt like an extra ending to me.
That’s my one suggestion. But this isn’t a script that needs a lot of suggestions. It’s freaking that good!
Script link: Patisserie
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
AMATEUR SMACKDOWN WEEK WINNER: Patisserie!!!
What I learned: There’s something about a villain who smiles while he steals from you that always gets audiences. A person who charges in and demands you give him money or he’ll shoot you in the face is boring. If that same person pals around with you for half an hour, then gently implies that for protection, you might want to fork over 30% of your paycheck? We will always hate that character more than the Obvious Guy. That’s why Egger was so genius here. He WAS that character.
Why this script SHOULD be purchased: Look, there’s no question this is a tough sell. However, there’s always going to be a market for World War 2 films. You should have no problem attaching two well-known actresses to this script, which should get you financing, which should get the film made. This ain’t going to be a The Purge return on investment. But it could be one of those “little engines that could” that battles for Academy votes come the end of the year.