In case you’re interested, I did a guest review for the guys at LatinoReview. The script is “Machete” by Robert Rodriquez. “Machete” was born out of a fake trailer Rodriquez made to play in front of “Grindhouse.” It was so widely loved, he decided to make an entire movie out of it. Robert DeNiro and Lindsey Lohan are in the film. Talk about nuts. Go check it out.
Genre: Period Romance
Premise: Set (I think) in early 20th Century Paris, a penniless journalist worms his way into the city’s upper crust, seducing all the ladies in his path.
About: Robert Pattinson is in it. What more do you need to know?
Writer: Rachel Bennette (based off the short story by Guy de Maupassant)
Oh R_Patz. Where art thou R_Patz? What the *hell* are you doing R_Patz?? Did you even read the script you signed up for? No you didn’t, did you. You so did not read it. But you were interested in making this movie R_Patz weren’t you? Yes you were. You were interested in making this movie because the coverage said you’d be spending the majority of the 120 minutes banging three of the hottest actresses in Hollywood. Yes you were R_Patz. Don’t you lie to me Mr. Sharp Fangs. We both know the truth. Because here you were Mr. Twilight Vampire Man thinking you would get the pick of the litter. Three sultry celebrities you could take back to your coffin every night after filming. Real sex after fake sex. Menage et quatro. Be honest with me R_Patz. That’s why you signed up for this movie, isn’t it?
Well because you didn’t read the script, let me break it down for you. Your character, Georges, is a bit of a low life. He’s slumming it up in Paris circa sometime-a-long-time ago (the author chose not to disclose the actual year because she hates me). Apparently Georges used to be a soldier, but the only thing he fights now are the gargantuan cockroaches that try to share a blanket with him in his tiny attic apartment.
Low and behold though, wouldn’t it be Georges Porgies luck that he runs into an old friend while trying to spend his last two shillings on a low-class whore. The friend, Charles, has since become very rich, running his own newspaper, The Parisian. Charles offers George a job at the paper, despite the fact that Georges has never written anything in his entire life.
The job and Charles’ friendship allow him a tiny opening into Paris’ upper crust, which he exploits to the nth degree. You see Charles’ and his two best buddies just happen to be married to the three most beautiful women in France. There’s Madeline, Charles’ impeccably smart and beautiful wife. There’s Clotilde, the slutty one. And then there’s Luc Rousset, the innocent Redhead. I think we all know where this is going, right?
Yes, Georges begins to seduce the women one-by-one with varying degrees of success. He starts off with Madeline, who he has the strongest connection to, but she thwarts his advances and claims, “I will never be your lover.” So he moves on to the easiest target, Clotilde, who is so slutified that she actually buys the two a bang bungalow, a special place exclusively for their daily bang. But this is not enough for Georges. He craves excess. And when Charles succumbs to some distant cousin of the Bubonic Plauge (an early version of swine flu maybe?) Georges swoops in and marries his true love, Madeline.
Oh but if it were that easy. After marrying Madeline, he learns that she just isn’t that interested in him. In fact, she pulls out the virtual chastity belt and basically tells him “You do your thing, I’ll do mine.” So what does Georges do in return? What do you think he does! He makes a move on Luc Rousset (who’s a woman – I know, it’s confusing) and starts a dangerous fling in the bang bungalow that Clotilde bought specifically for them. If there was a Renaissance version of Cheaters, this shit would be ripe for the season finale.
Because Georges is a moron, he doesn’t realize that you never cheat on anyone with a girl with red hair! Because when a red hair shows up in your bed, you can’t explain it away. “Uhh, maybe your hair is turning red?” Doesn’t work. I’ve tried it. So Clotilde leaves him. He leaves Luc Rousset. And Madeline won’t even return any of his texts. Is this Bel Ami or The Real Housewives of Atlanta?
Anyway, Georges ends up just as poor and helpless as where he started in the movie, before making a last-second power play and marrying Luc Rousset’s daughter of all people (who up til this point hadn’t even spoken a line). It was such a bizarre turn of events I sent my life size poster of Robert Pattinson to the closet for a time out. Luc Rousset plays the least important role of the three ladies, so what they were trying to say by having Georges marry her daughter is a complete mystery to me.
There were some good moments tucked into Bel Ami. The relationship between R_Patz and Madeline was interesting, as she tended to treat him like he treated everyone else. But outside of that, this felt like a salacious excuse for a bunch of smelly French sex.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: All joking aside, if you have an unmarketable screenplay, try to target actors who like taking chances. Very few A-list actors would take on a role like this and therefore Bel Ami was destined to wither in screenplay obscurity. But Pattinson seems interested in trying new things (he’s also playing a Cherokee Indian in Unbound Captives) so a script like Bel Ami is something he might actually read. The owners of the material took a chance and it paid off. As writers, you’re always looking to add to the “package” of your screenplay with actors and directors. Even if you have a slow non-mainstream piece, if you’ve done your homework and know a few actors who might be interested in your offbeat independent film (Dicaprio with The Low Dweller, Pattinson with Unbound Captives, Nicolas Cage with Leaving Las Vegas), you might find your script going from unwanted to the hottest screenplay in town. Now getting to those actors is another thing altogether. But it’s another avenue to pursue.
p.s. If you’d like to read about a much better Robert Pattinson project, go here.
EDIT – FURTHER THOUGHTS ON BEL AMI: So I’m kind of getting deluged with e-mails from Twilight fans saying I didn’t give the script a fair chance and that I was snooty in my review. They also want more details. So let me say a couple more things.
The thing I liked best about the script was the character of Madeline. She informs Georges from the beginning of their marriage that he can never question her, and cannot be jealous. She is her own woman and expects to be treated as such. Within weeks Georges begins coming home to suspicious visits by an older man named The Comte. It doesn’t take George long to start suspecting that something’s going on between The Comte and his wife. But a healthy dose of denial convinces him his wife can’t possibly be interested in this old bag of bone. Madeline’s icy response to his desperate attempts at closeness finally level the playing field of a man who’s been playing by his own rules without consequences. As they’re both pretty despicable people, watching their marriage deteriorate is quite fun.
The character of Luc Rousset is also quite funny, as she clings desperately to Georges after even a whisper of an interest from him. As he has sex with her the first time, she screams out, “I love you! I love you! I love you!” over and over again. Man, and I thought my ex was clingy. When his world starts crumbling around him, he literally kicks Luc Rousset to the curb, telling her she makes him sick and that he never even had the slightest interest in her. To add insult to injury, he ends up marrying her daughter.
There’s also an uninteresting sub-plot about the men at The Parisian taking advantage of France’s invasion of Morocco – buying up a lot of businesses so that when the country officially becomes theirs, they’ll all be rich. They purposefully exclude Georges from the club, ensuring that he’ll end up with nothing, which he becomes extremely angry about – despite the fact that he’s been fucking all their wives behind their backs.
A few people have asked me about the dialogue. I have a very simple philosophy about dialogue. Unless we’re talking comedy, the more invisible the dialogue, the better. The only time I notice dialogue is when it’s really atrocious or really over-the-top. I dislike both. When dialogue flows with the story organically, it should feel like real people talking, and in that sense, Bel Ami does a good job. The dialogue was smooth and realistic, even with the extravagances the script sometimes took.
If you have questions, please ask in the comments section instead of e-mailing me as that way, future readers can have their questions answered as well.
Ed Helms of The Hangover is attached to this script that just sold to Universal. Helms’ character is an accountant who gets tangled up in the world of international espionage when he finds a long lost friend via Facebook. Hmm…is it just me or does this sound a lot like the NBC show, “Chuck.” Which Universal also owns. Well, either way, it’s a spec script sale in a dry market so if you have this one, please send it over. I’d love to give it a read.
Premise: In the vein of “The Breakfast Club,” A group of strangers wait all night in zero degree weather for concert tickets.
About: Written all the way back in 1996, this is one of the John Hughes’ projects that never got made. The movie was said to be close to production, then delayed because a movie with a similar premise, “Detroit Rock City,” went into production ahead of them. And we all know how good that movie turned out. :(
Writer: John Hughes
Let me just get something out of the way right quick. I think John Hughes is a genius. No one else in history has understood the world of teenagers and the outrageous planet they live on known as “High School” better than this man. When someone e-mailed me “Tickets” and recommended I review it in honor of Hughes, I thought it was a great idea. I’ve wanted to read Tickets for a long time. But just like all the scripts I want to read for fun, I threw it it on the “read for fun” pile and never saw it again. See that’s the trick, you have to disguise the fun as work to get to the fun. That and I realized that if someone had to die and I still wouldn’t read their script, what kind of person had I become?
Tickets starts out on a very chilly Chicago evening. For all of you spoiled sunburned desert crawlers who grew up in places like Las Vegas and San Diego, let me explain how cold it gets in Chicago. Because I was always a bit lazy, I’d wake up no earlier than 20 minutes before school, take a lightning-quick shower, burrow myself inside a couple of sweaters and a coat, then walk to school. But because my hair was still wet, I’d make it 2 blocks before every hair on my head was frozen solid. Like harder than steel solid. TWO BLOCKS! Yes, it’s that kind of cold in Chicago.
So when our six strangers decide to wait outside all night for tickets to their favorite band in the middle of winter, it’s more of a mission than a friendly gathering. First we have Tom, a 30 year-old who just wants to get through the night without being bothered. Then we have Leslie, who wears so many layers of clothing she could be mistaken for a sumo wrestler (she’s the “Ally Sheedy” character – if Ally Sheedy got into Barry Bonds’ medicine cabinet). Then there’s Asa and Omar, two 17 year old suburbanites who snuck downtown hoping to find some females. Of course no night would be complete without “Man in Refrigerator Box” who is a man…. in a refrigerator box. Trolling around the sidewalk, wreaking havoc wherever he could find it is Mr. 66, a homeless Vietnam vet who would grow a second mouth if you sewed his first one shut. Finally you have Max, the rich real estate developer who has recently bought up the very building they’re all waiting out in front of, with plans to gut it and convert it into a sleek new London-themed club.
The story is kinda hard to explain because…because there is no story. Leslie is a walking reality show before there were reality shows. Although we’re not sure if she’s homeless or not, one thing is clear: she had one hell of a fucked up upbringing. Asa and Omar thought the city would be teeming with girls but instead find themselves at the center of Mr. 66’s odd and increasingly cruel attacks. Tom desperately wants everyone to shut up so he can get some sleep, yet consistently finds himself as the only one capable of settling the numerous disputes that arise. When Asa and Omar decide to grill up some hot dogs, asshole developer Max sweeps in and insists that a city ordinance prohibits them from cooking on the street. The group momentarily bonds in order to battle the only person they can universally agree is more annoying than any of them.
Eventually, as the night gets colder and the characters more testy, smaller conflicts arise, pulling away and breaking up our group, leaving us wondering if anybody’s actually going to make it to the morning.
Tickets is a not-so-subtle commentary on class war. The dirt-poor Leslie beats the surbabanites up over their privileged little lives. Tom represents the 80s youth turned 90s apathetic adult, who makes just enough money to survive and not a penny more. And Max, of course, represents a sector of wealth so extreme, that nobody else in that line will ever achieve it, and uses this fact to belittle our characters whenever he gets a chance.
If there was ever a script more focused on the journey than the destination, it’s Tickets. Because the band and its significance to our characters seems to be of so little importance to Hughes, we often forget what they’re doing there in the first place. Hughes is such a master of dialogue that he can usually carry us through these seemingly directionless passages without us realizing that the story is nonexistent. But taking this route is kind’ve like riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Even if you’re Jesse James, there’s always a chance you’re going to fall down and hit your head. And unfortunately this is exactly what happens in Tickets, again and again. The dialogue simply isn’t as good as his previous films, leading us to focus on things we’ve never had to focus on before when watching a Hughes movie. This is the same reason why Tarantino can seem so great one second and so terrible the next.
Where does this leave us? Well, when people look back at The Breakfast Club, I don’t think they remember how dark it was. It was a dark movie with a lot of dark moments. Which is one of the reasons it was so successful. It’s as if someone finally gave teenagers a voice, something to point to to say, “That’s how it really is.” Tickets is even darker than The Breakfast Club. There are funny moments, for sure, but as the script goes on, they start losing altitude, sucked into the thick cumulus clouds below, leaving us with this stark cold distant look at our world.
In the end, it’s the characters who doom Tickets. They’re quirky and memorable for sure. But every single one of them is written to alienate us. Some are too elite. Some are too snobby. Some don’t care. Some are too cruel. Not only don’t they let each other into their lives. They don’t let us in either. And as we all know, if you take great characters out of a John Hughes movie, what do you have left?
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Always look for memorable names. Writers don’t care enough about names but they’re a big deal, both to help identify the character and to make things easier on the reader. A good distinctive name will prevent a busy reader from having to go back and check, “Who was that again?” (note to writers: Readers *hate* this). So get it right the first time. Hughes names his homeless character Mr. 66. instead of, say, “Darrel Johnson.” That’s a “never have to go back and check” name if there ever was one.
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