Genre: Romantic Comedy
Premise: (from Black List) A political journalist courts his old babysitter, who is now the United States Secretary of State.
About: Dan Sterling has developed his comedic chops writing for TV since the mid-90s. He’s worked on The Sarah Silverman Show, The Jon Stewart Show, King of The Hill, and South Park. He was actually the first writer other than Matt and Trey on South Park. Flarsky finished 21st on 2011’s Black List with 17 votes.
Writer: Dan Sterling
Details: 118 pages – undated (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).
It appears that there aren’t many fun scripts on this year’s Black List. I wanted to include something light for this week’s reading and started scrolling down the list only to realize that almost every script sounded incredibly depressing. Is this the Black List or the “Wear Black List?” As in we’re going to a funeral! (sorry – I’m trying out some new material in 2012). Then I came across Flarsky. Finally, a comedy!
But………it was a politically charged romantic comedy. Uh oh. I’d probably have more fun reading through a stack of TPS reports. I HATE political romantic comedies. The comedy’s always buried under some stupid political message. I worked behind the Los Angeles Federal Building for 7 years, where they had a demonstration every weekend. I’m done with political agendas.
But it did score high on the Black List so I figured it had a *chance* of being funny (“So you’re saying there’s a chance!”). I poofed up my pillow beforehand though. That’s the one good thing about bad scripts. They’re perfect nap initiators.
But that nap never came. Because I loooooooved me some Flarsky!
Charlotte Field is the gorgeous 30-something Secretary Of State and the United States’ closest thing to royalty. This woman makes Jackie Onassis look like Snooki. She’s funny, smart, powerful, cool, and everybody’s frontrunner for the 2016 Presidential race.
Fred Flarsky is the opposite. He’s dull, weak, uncool, unkempt, and everybody’s frontrunner for 2012’s most annoying drunk at the end of Larry’s Bar. But it wasn’t always like this for Flarsky. He once held promise. He once was a great writer.
Well, he still is a great writer. Unfortunately, that writing is happening at some 4th rate newspaper nobody reads. Until the inevitable happens. Yes, due to that bastard known as the internet, which is destroying print newspapers left and right, poor Flarsky is fired, leaving him in an even more pathetic state than he was already in, if that’s possible.
Strangely enough, Flarsky once had a connection with Charlotte Field. She used to babysit him when he was a kid, and in one of the most monumental moments of his life, he worked up the courage to plant a kiss on her, to which he still thinks about this day. But that was 25 years ago. Since then, their lives have gone in completely different directions.
But Flarsky’s best friend, Lance, has a different assessment. Lance believes that you can have anything you want in life if you try, and encourages Flarsky to go after Charlotte. In fact, he has two tickets to a benefit she’ll be at tonight! Flarsky agrees reluctantly, and is shocked when Charlotte recognizes him, inspiring an impromptu jaunt down memory lane.
When Charlotte finds out Flarsky is a writer, she hires him to help her with her speeches. The next thing you know, Flarsky’s gone from the seat at the end of the bar to the seat at the front of the plane. Despite Flarsky being nowhere near Charlotte’s league, she finds something charming in him, which leads to – gasp – a relationship! Since Charlotte’s married (a marriage that’s been technically dead for years), her advisors try anything in their power to get rid of Flarsky, as even the hint of this affair threatens each and every one of their jobs. In the end, Charlotte will have to make a choice between her political ambitions and the man she’s fallen in love with, Flarsky.
I thought this was hilarious. As you all know, I love underdog stories, and there’s no bigger underdog than Flarsky! I suspect women are going to hate this script because it’s yet another example of a loser guy getting the impossibly beautiful girl, which kinda never happens in life. And I might have thought that myself if not for the babysitting connection. The fact that they knew each other beforehand gave the relationship just enough credibility to make it believable. Now does Flarsky have to be the single biggest loser on the planet (a drunk, unkempt, bad hygiene, depressed, unconfident)? Maybe Sterling went a little too far in that department, but the writing was so strong that I went with it.
What I was really happy about was that the political stuff never got in the way of the story or the comedy. I see this happen sometimes, especially in these political scripts, where the writer believes we care more about some issue our characters are promoting rather than the characters themselves. This is a romantic comedy. That means the characters and the relationship have to come first. And Sterling wisely focuses on exactly that.
My only problem with the script was the first act. The setup for this kind of situation is always tough because getting two people together who are this far apart in stature requires its share of forced moments. For example, it seems like the only reason Flarsky’s best friend Lance is so rich is so Sterling had a believable way to get Flarsky into the high class benefit Charlotte was attending. Then there’s something about Flarsky getting a broken leg and Charlotte feeling responsible so she takes him to dinner. I don’t know. I could definitely feel the writer tapping the keys on that one. It’s never easy to navigate these choppy plot mechanic waters though and I suppose Sterling did a manageable job of keeping it sort of believable.
The thing that really killed me though was the forced “save the cat” moment. I HAAAAATE forced save the cat moments! These are moments where the writer tries WAY too hard to make you love his character. Here, a bunch of meatheads are talking about how much they hate blacks and gays. Flarsky overhears this and tries to beat them up. Uhhh, why don’t you just put Flarsky in a time machine and have him murder Hitler.
But once we get past that first act and into the romance, the script really begins to fly. In these screenplays, it’s all about the chemistry between the leads, and Flarsky and Charlotte are perfect together. I so wanted them to stay together in fact, that I mouthed “noooo” when Charlotte’s sworn enemy (a Rupert Murdoch like media mogul) got hold of a sensitive picture of her that threatened to blow the whole affair up.
There’s also something fresh about the setting that we haven’t seen in a romantic comedy before. I mean in what other rom-com have you seen the leads having to dodge rockets? And all the jetsetting (as they go from country to country) keeps the script moving at a breakneck pace, which is also rare for the genre.
And overall, I just loved the predicament. Charlotte can’t go public with this affair. If she does, she ruins her marriage, loses the trust of her followers, and loses her shot at becoming president. Not to mention her entire team is out of a job. So the stakes are very high. When Flarsky first comes to terms with that realization – the fact that their relationship can never be real, it’s a genuinely sad moment. And I, for one, was wondering how it was going to end. In a romantic comedy no less. When you ALWAYS know how it’s going to end.
The success of this film will depend on the casting, as it always does with romantic comedies. But assuming they get that right, this movie should do well, because the script is there.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned: The impossible choice. Force one of your leads into an impossible choice at the end of the movie. Here, Charlotte must choose between her career and Flarsky. If you set that decision up well (where each choice has devastating consequences), we’ll be dying to know what they choose.