Next week I promise to read three of the newer spec scripts out there. Expect a review of a particularly large actor’s recent sale, something that revolves around what you’d do on a couch, and possibly a script being produced by two industry titans. I can’t wait!
Genre: Political Satire
Synopsis: A down-and-out political fundraiser will do anything to get his candidate elected president.
About: Berger (the son of President Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger) wrote the script after interviewing professional fundraisers in Washington and Los Angeles.
Writer: Alex Berger
[ ] barely readable
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Synopsis: A bald overweight TSA screener, Kirk, somehow lands Molly, the most beautiful girl ever.
About: Despite Kirk’s description as “bald and overweight”, Judd Apatow alum Jay Baruchel will be playing the lead in this. God are these Freaks and Geeks guys kissing the ground that Apatow walks on or what? There isn’t a comedy that comes out these days without one of them.
Writers: Sean Anders & John Morris
I wouldn’t say this was the most hilarious script I’ve ever read. But what it lacked in the laugh department it made up for in sweetness. At its core, the story is about the insecure guy inside all of us struggling for acceptance. What we tend to forget, however, is that true acceptance doesn’t come from others. It comes from within.
She’s Out of My League spends a hell of a lot of time making it very clear to us that Molly is way out of Kirk’s league. She’s constantly being hit on whenever they’re together because, well, everyone assumes that Kirk and Molly can’t possibly be together. He’s kicked out of restaurants as owners assume she must be a high-class escort. He’s tackled by cops who assume he’s a random pervert. It goes on and on and on and a lot of it, I have to admit, is pretty funny. But at a certain point you have to say, “Okay, you’ve made your point. She’s out of his league!”
Although I loved Kirk, the writers at times try to make him a little too lovable. He’s so low on the family totem-pole that he’s been resigned to the butt of all jokes. His brother is a total asshole. His parents like his ex-girlfriend so much that they’ve adopted her into the family, along with her new boyfriend! And through all this, Kirk takes it in stride, accepting it for what it is. We’re meant to feel sorry for him but in the end, he comes out looking like a little too much of a schlub. We wanna grab him and scream, “Stick up for yourself! Say something!” But he never does. I wouldn’t have minded if they’d given him something – anything – to rough him up a little. Make him not soooo perfect, ya know? Even the best people have faults.
Kirk spends much of the movie trying to figure out why Molly is with him. Is this some kind of bet? Is it a misunderstanding? His best friend Stainer, an anger management candidate if there ever was one, is convinced she’s a terrorist, befriending him in order to circumvent security. But the truth is, Molly’s just sick of all the jerks she usually goes out with. Kirk is first genuine guy she’s met in…well, ever.
It is an interesting question. Is it possible for a relationship like this to exist? I’m not sure She’s Out Of My League gets to the bottom of that , but it certainly tackled the kinds of situations a couple like this would find themselves in.
The script moves along nicely and I don’t really have any complaints except that I felt they missed an opportunity in the end. As we all know, every romantic comedy ends with someone running to the airport. And here, he *works* at an airport. So there was such potential to come up with a unique ending. Like maybe he has to race to her house (away from the airport). Or maybe he does have to run to the airport, only to get stuck at…SECURITY (he’s a TSA screener). You know, something like that.
But all in all it was a fun script. And maybe with Kevin James’ newfound fame, it’s a role he might be interested in (Jonah Hill also comes to mind). Otherwise, I don’t know if this has the teeth to make it to the big screen.
note: I wrote this before knowing that it had been made into a movie. I like Jay Baruchel and have been waiting for him to get a legitimate leading man role. I guess we’re going to find out if he’s got leading man chops.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM “SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE”
Never miss a chance to create suspense, even if it’s using a cheap trick. We’re told at one point that Molly has a birth defect that’s caused her some self-esteem issues. When Kirk is informed of this by Molly’s friend, he’s ecstatic. Because it means she’s not perfect, and he doesn’t have to feel so inadequate. For the 12 pages between when you’re told of the defect, and it’s actually revealed, you are riveted. You desperately want to know what it is. So cheap, but it works.
Synopsis: An upper-class New York family of five bratty sisters must fight for their father’s inheritence.
About: Taxonomy of Barnacles is an adaption from the novel of the same name.
Writer: Amy Lippman adapting Galt Neiderhoffer’s novel.
Now I’m going to go on a little rant here so hang with me. I hate book adaptations. When you adapt a book, you’re writing a screenplay to adapt a book. When you write a screenplay, you’re writing a screenplay to write the screenplay. It’s natural, organic, and the only thing you have to worry about is telling a story. Adapting books, your first priority is to find a way to tell the same story but in screenplay form. So you’re fighting a battle even before you place a word on paper. This is very evident in screenplays like Taxonomy of Barnacles, where 6 characters are being jammed down your throat in the first 3 pages and FIVE of these characters have names that start with the letter “B”. A screenplay rule for as long as there have been screenplays is to give your characters distinct sounding names to make it easy for the reader to differentiate between them. Five characters all having names that start with “B” is absurd. Especially when you meet them all at once. I had to keep going back and checking who was who. It was incredibly annoying. And this is just a minor problem with adaptations. The big one is that old problem of having to tell 100% of the story in 10% of the space. But I digress.
The movie begins with four rich bratty sisters, Benita (10), Beth (20), Bridget (24), and Belinda (15), (we’ll meet Bell – 27 – later) complaining about everything from school to life to boyfriends. We’ve got a roomful of complete brats and it’s hard to like a single one of them. After 10 pages I wanted to nail these girls to my door and throw darts at them til they bled to death. So far so good.
But then Barry Barnacle (God does this author like the letter B), their father with a hard-on for Charles Darwin , comes home to inform the girls that he’s decided to use their inheritance money to have a room at the Museum of Natural History and Art dedicated in his name. He’s giving the girls one last chance to convince him that they’re “worthy” of the inheritance. If they somehow achieve this feat, one of them will get it all. That’s right: only ONE of them. And thus Barry infuses their lives with his own little Charles Darwin experiment. Survival of the fittest indeed.
Can I just say? THANK GOD! I was so worried this was going to be some novelized version of Privileged about a bunch of snobby rich girls bitching about how difficult it is to be rich (I’ve never actually seen Privileged but this is what I assume it’s about). Now we actually have a story. Bravo. I’m on board. But dammit. This means I’m going to have to learn these girls’ names!
It’s actually a nice setup, as each of these girls must now face their deepest flaws and see if they can overcome them. Bridget never finishes anything she starts (her boyfriend Trot wants to set a date to get married but she’s reluctant). Beth won’t even interact with a man. Belinda can’t think for herself. And there’s something wrong with the other one too. Is Bartha her name?
But Barry is a peculiar character. He cheated on his wife. He resents having all girls. He’s disappointed in Bell for leaving her husband, even if the man was a compulsive cheater. So this “prove you’re a good person” bit doesn’t hold much water when you think about it. It’s kind of like gutters in Los Angeles. They’re not really equipped to handle a lot of rainfall. When Bell claims she doesn’t want the half of the money she’s entitled to through her divorce, Barry is the first to tell her to take it. So the man who’s trying to teach her a lesson about being entitled tells her she’s entitled to half her husband’s fortune? Uhhh, what?
The most compelling storyline is Bridget, who left her previous fiance, Billy, unannounced. Then Trot, her current boyfriend, the only person in the story with any actual working blood in him, finds out that Bridget’s gone back and slept with Billy. He confronts them both and tells her he can never be with her again. Billy lies and tells Trot that Bridget won the inheritance, in order to prove to Bridget (in an effort to win her back) that Trot’s been in this for the money all along. Trot changes his tune once he finds out that Bridget won the money, and ole Billy’s point is proven. The problem with this is – TROT’S THE ONLY PERSON WE LIKE IN THE WHOLE GODDAMN SCREENPLAY. Now you just made him an asshole like everyone else.
The rest of the story is fun. Beth finds out she’s a lesbian. Belinda tries to marry a punk rocker to rattle her father (who she dumps because he ends up being jewish – which wouldn’t have rattled her father at all). All Benita wants is her father’s appreciation. And what we find out, in a rather touching finale, is that their mother committed suicide because of depression. Barry needed a way to rationalize it, and used Darwin’s theory of Survival Of The Fittest to explain it away – hence his peculiar obsession with the theory.
There’s a humorous subplot about a nest of rare eagles living out on the ledge that Barry’s been trying to get rid of for years (but Animal Activists groups have prevented him from doing so). Again, there’s some Darwanism going on here – will the birds make it? But I think the biggest strength of the script is watching these little bitches battle each other for the gold. Making us dislike them from the get-go was a calculated move, and now we revel in their misery. And it’s so wonderfully written (save for the noted problems) that even without a character to root for, you’re desperate to find out how it’s all going to end. I see Taxonomy of Barnacles as the movie I had hoped The Royal Tenenbaums would be. As it is, it’s probably too obscure to be made into a film. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.
What I learned from Taxonomy of Barnacles: The power of a strong theme can really unify your script. Everything in Taxonomy stems from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and it works superbly.
Synopsis: A woman gets lost in the Everglades.
About: A Nicholl’s quarterfinalist.
Writer: Leif Lindhjem
Give. Me. A. Break.
Look, I hate to bash a writer who’s just starting his career. But this wasn’t enjoyable. It wandered. It meandered. It had no idea what it was.
Can I just make a statement? Can I make a plea to all the young writers out there, especially the writers who write horror? Please…for the love of all that is holy…DO NOT. UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. WRITE THE MOVIE WHERE THE PERSON WAKES UP IN THE END IN A PSYCHE WARD AND FINDS OUT THAT THEY’RE CRAZY.
Not only is it the least original ending that you can possibly think of. But it allows the writer to write 10,000 “spooky” crazy nonsensical things into the story that go nowhere, all in the name of being “clever” cause in the end, the character we’ve been following is CRAZY! So you see! Remember when she saw that tree made out of human flesh?? Well that’s explained because she’s crazy! Remember when she ate a human baby? Well that makes sense now because she’s crazy! (sigh)
Claire, 30s, pretty, heads into the forest with her son, Levi, and sometimes-boyfriend David, and the three get split up. When Claire goes looking for them, she gets lost. As dusk turns to night, and she’s frantically searching, she slams into a branch, knocking herself out. She wakes up the next day with no idea where she is or how to get home.
We sense something is off. There’s a strange savage seminole woman who follows Claire around wherever she goes, always staying at a distance, always in the background. The first thing I thought (at this point I still held out hope) was “Please don’t let that be herself. Please don’t let that be herself.”
Claire almost gets eaten by an alligator. She gets stuck in a sinkhole (and watches the Seminole woman toss a baby into the sinkhole, killing it). She keeps falling and passing out every three minutes. At some point she’s picked up by Russel and J.R., two hicks who live out in the everglades. They take her to their house and they speak cryptically of knowing the Seminole woman. They tell her the woman has her son. When she asks if they can go get her, J.R. replies. “You don’t go to her. She comes to you.”
Everything is cryptic and weird. Nothing makes sense. Nobody talks in any sort of reality, which makes every conversation and moment extremely absurd(cause like, she’s MAKING THIS ALL UP IN HER HEAD, REMEMBER??).
She finally wakes up in the psyche ward. Her real world boyfriend turns out to be a doctor – proving that she just *believed* he was her boyfriend. They have no relationship. The real Russell and J.R. work there as assistants. She still thinks this is all real of course and tries to escape. She sneaks out through the window, climbs the fence, only to get caught up in the barbed wire. She’s too wrapped up in it for them to remove her. Blood gushes everywhere. She passes out….and wakes up in the forest again…to start the nightmare all over again! And oh yeah, if you haven’t figured it out already, she IS the seminole woman.
I wish she would’ve died. And I wish she would’ve taken me with her.
This is when I don’t like reading. When I hit a stretch of scripts so bad I start wondering if anything will surprise and excite me again.
What I learned from Everglade: You can only lead your audience on for so long before you have to start giving them answers. “Intriguing” can become “annoying” faster than you know.