Genre: Dramedy
Premise: A talented chef loses his job after a bad online review, which inspires him to open a food truck.
About: When your acting career is in shambles, what do you do? Why, you write a role for yourself! Jon Favreau did it with Swingers, and even though he’s currently one of the biggest directors in town, acting opportunities have gotten so thin, he’s gone back to his roots, this time with “Chef,” which Favreau wrote, directed and starred in.  The film also stars his Iron Man buddy Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johannsen, Sofia Vergera and Dustin Hoffman.  I originally reviewed this script in my newsletter, but decided to post it since the trailer came out yesterday.
Writer: Jon Favreau
Details: 96 pages (1/31/13 draft)

chef-poster

There’s been lots of confusion in Hollywood over the “Chef” projects. On the one hand you have the undisputed heavyweight chef script champion in Steven Knight’s “Untitled Chef Project,” which began with David Fincher and Keanu Reeves attached. Currently, Bradley Cooper has come on, but that project is still without a director. Then you have this script, which has been causing all this confusion as people have been like, “Wait, is Jon Favreau now directing the Untitled Chef project?? I don’t understand.” I hear that Cannes was quite nutty as investors were approached by both projects and didn’t know which was which (or if they were indeed the same project).  They finally sorted it out.  Favreau’s Chef was pre-sold.  But we’re still waiting for Untitled Chef Project to get produced.  :(

Favreau’s career has always been on my radar because, DUH, he wrote Swingers, one of the best films of the 90s. He used that to launch his acting career, which led to his directing career, but he really hasn’t written much since. There was Made, but that was kind of a disappointment. I guess it wasn’t terrible, but there are movies that know want they want to be and there are those that don’t.  Swingers knew exactly what it wanted to be.  “Made” never figured it out.   Luckily, Chef is a lot closer to Swingers than it is “Made.”

The curiously named Carl Casper is a few years north of 40 and a few pounds north of the Surgeon General warning. But as someone everybody believes is an “up-and-coming” chef, he’s got more important things to focus on, like his menu for tonight’s big food critic, a culinary blogger with 3 million Twitter followers (Twitter plays such a big part in “Chef” that the subtitle “Twitter Gone Wild” could’ve easily been placed next to it).

The night doesn’t go well, unfortunately, but it’s only partly Carl’s fault. The control freak owner of his restaurant demands that Carl not serve anything new to the blogger and stick with what’s made them successful. Predictably, then, the blogger writes that the menu (and food) were generic. After the review goes viral, Carl gets pissed and gets his young son (who plays a prominent role in the script) to teach him what “viral” means. This leads to Carl’s first Twitter account, which leads to him calling out the blogger, a result of him not really understanding how Twitter works.

The result is an online war that eventually leads to Carl getting fired from his job (or quitting, depending on how you look at it). With Carl landing on TMZ soon after and no restaurant in town willing to hire him, there are few prospects for the man who was once a happy place for foodies everywhere.

That’s when Carl’s ex-wife gets involved. A 2nd generation Cuban who’s very opinionated, she thinks Carl doesn’t do well working for others and should open up one of those trendy food trucks. She’s got a lead (another ex-husband of hers owns some trucks actually) and suggests the whole family head down to Miami, get the truck, and see what happens. Carl reluctantly gives it a shot, and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything (but turn away just in case) when I say the family gets back together, the truck turns out to be a great idea, and everyone lives happily ever after.

sxsw-opening-blog480

The biggest surprise to me about Chef is how it was structured. And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Swingers had an awkward structure as well (they go to Vegas in the first act only to…come back to LA for the rest of the movie?). But Swingers almost celebrated its plot-less-ness.  “Chef” actually sounds like a movie. When you read the logline, you fully expect the script to be about a chef who falls from grace then tries to make it in the food truck business. The fall would happen in Act 1, and the food truck stuff would start in Act 2.

That’s not how this works. We spend the ENTIRE first and second acts on Carl’s fall. And then taking a page out of It’s A Wonderful Life, Chef makes its final act the act that explores the hook (in this case, starting a food truck).  Does this unorthodox approach work?  Usually, it doesn’t have a prayer.  Not getting to your “hook” until late is often the result of a writer who drags scenes on for way too long and uses groups of scenes to repeat information we already knew the first time they said it.

But I have to give it to Favreau. He has such a breezy fun way of writing (almost the entire script is dialogue) that you somehow don’t notice the fun part of the story hasn’t started yet.  As long as you can keep something happening (problems, conflicts, things that need to be resolved), you don’t technically need to follow the 3-Act Structure in a screenplay.  Just continue to make bad shit happen to your hero and see how he gets out of it (or doesn’t).  Here, Carl is dealing with enough issues that we stay entertained.

It starts with him getting ready for this evil food critic.  Right away, the stakes are high.   We have the heartbreak of the owner coming in and telling Carl he can’t cook the food he wants to.  Instead he must cook his (the owner’s) boring food.  Problem number uno!  We then have the fallout from the review, the Twitter war, the second critic showdown, and family problems, which take center stage as the script goes on. The conversations between Carl and his son are particularly heartbreaking, as he makes it clear every chance he gets that he wants mom and dad go get back together.

If there’s a fault in this family dynamic, it’s that Carl and Inez’s (the ex-wife) relationship is very robotic. Or maybe not robotic, but businesslike. They’re really good at having conversations and being cordial and giving each other advice. But I never got the feeling that they still pined for each other. So even though we want them to get back together for the son’s sake, I’m not sure we care that much if they get back together for THEIR sake.

Another thing I liked about Chef was how Favreau is obviously exploring aspects of his own life. The chef position is his directing position. This blogger obviously represents his critics. When people are talking about how Carl used to take chances and now he does safe and predictable food, it’s Favreau making stuff like Iron Man and Cowboys and Aliens. And clearly, moving his career to a food truck represents this here script, Favreau going back to his roots and making a small movie that he’s passionate about.

Does it succeed? Yes, I think it does. But maybe not in the way Favreau intended. The script is good. But the story itself is a little soft. I mean, at its heart it’s a family film. And I don’t know how indie or “edgy” you can get with a family film. But you’re not going to find an easier read this year. This is good solid spec writing.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned:  We all know to explore ourselves through our characters.  But if you really want those characters to pop, explore the parts of yourself that you hate the most, that you’re the most embarrassed about, the things that are truly holding you back in life.   It must not have been easy for Favreau to admit to himself, through his character, that he’s grown safe and generic. But that’s exactly what he needed to do to make this character authentic, to make us care for him.

  • HalfMartian

    A bad review? That’s been done and done and done and…

    He should’ve got his ass kicked on Iron Chef, 43 to 8. Something more original than a bad review, please.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      The first thought that came to mind was Ratatouille. The second thought was Think Like a Man. Michael Ealy’s character arc was going into business for himself and opening a food truck. Last Holiday with Queen Latifah. The Princess and the Frog primarily the film was about the love relationship, but a good portion was about owning a restaurant in the end. Yeah you’re right that concept is completely overcooked.

      • HalfMartian

        “Overcooked” nice touch.

      • garrett_h

        There’s also The Five Year Engagement with Jason Segel. He’s a chef that ends up opening up a food truck. And I haven’t seen Spanglish in a while but wasn’t Adam Sandler’s character subplot keeping his Michelin Stars with the critics? Also, Untitled Chef Project has the whole critic showdown thing. Not to mention the chef in Treme going toe-to-toe with Alan Richman.

        Maybe it’s just one of those things, but there’s gotta be a fresher way to tell the chef story.

        • witwoud

          There’s also Mike Leigh’s LIFE IS SWEET, in which a chef buys a fast food van, and THE VAN, in which a laid-off baker buys a fish and chip van.

          It’s like an entire genre. “So whaddya wanna see tonight? Rom-com, zombie flick … or food truck movie?”

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I honestly was thinking why does that concept sound overly familiar. Food truck movie. I think it hasn’t reached its cliche saturation point yet when it turns into a genuine film trope.

    • Linkthis83

      Well, if you really look at it from a story/character perspective, it’s not the critic that causes the downfall. It’s the owner and his fear. Then that leads to the Chef having a conflict with the critic via an unfamiliar medium. These are the events that put the story in motion.

      Of course, the existence of the critic plays a role, but he is not the direct cause. It’s what he represents that causes the other characters to behave the way they do. The owner has fear. The Chef wants to show his talents. These create conflict. The critic is just playing his role. Then the conflict comes between the Chef and the critic. Thus, things unfold and sets the bigger story in motion.

      I think this is a very nice take on the matter. I’m not familiar with any other films that have done this before. I also may not have the exposure you do with other films/stories.

      Also, I don’t think your suggestion works because it seems that the Chef has some real talent. So, it’s unlikely that he would get blasted in a competition. In fact, he would probably get some exposure that would take him on a different journey (win or lose). This is what happens when accountability is included with story choices.

      • Randy Williams

        In the trailer, there’s a line about an agreement the chef had with the owner that the kitchen was his “domain” But the owner doesn’t live up to that agreement, not trusting in the chef to perform with what he chooses to prepare. Trust, faith, social contracts revoked, male emasculation. All good things to throw at your character.

        • Linkthis83

          Sounds like interesting stuff to me. At least to build upon. It depends on what they build to and how they explore the relationships. For me, this is what will matter.

      • DforVendetta

        Well….From the story/character perspective this has been done countless times before. I’m sure it’s packed with great dialogue, that’s what Fav’ does but the actual character development and story are cliche.

        A hot-shot professional falls from grace…makes mistakes fighting to get back….thanks to friends/fam they realize what they need to do to get back to the top, but by the end they choose to a path more in line with their heart than their career.

        Seen it a million times. In addition, neither the critic nor the owner caused his downfall. He did it himself. The critic was the challenge and the owner was representative of the fear that all artist deal with. Take writers for instance…every time we start a story we have the choice to…
        1. Cook OUR food (write what’s in our heart, pissing on any beat sheet in our way, abstaining from the safe and HACKEY)
        or
        2. Cook the establishments food (Safe, generic, template based)

        The Chef in Favreau’s film CHOSE the latter. Hence, his downfall.

        That’s the lesson to be learned from this.

        BTW Every example Half Martian gave were characters with talent. Everytime I come on here your jumping on someones comment in defense of Carson’s article. Stop following and open your eyes. Even Carson all but said that this was unoriginal.

        • Linkthis83

          You are a refreshingly blind individual. But I dig it.

          So….with that being said, trying to have a productive conversation probably won’t happen.

          -I didn’t jump on his comment.
          -Stories are always going to be similar. There are a finite number of emotions. The elements you introduce and the way you introduce them are what can be modified.
          -I like STORIES.
          -Just because YOU feel like a story is similar to others, doesn’t make it a HACK JOB.
          -Maybe this is what writing from Jon’s heart looks like in script format.
          -Maybe this story was his goal and he accomplished it.
          -Anytime somebody has an issue with something and says we have two choices, means they only have two choices for themselves based on their paradigm. And just because you simplify it in this manner doesn’t make it fact for all. It makes it fact for you.
          -I’m not writing to impress you.
          -I’m not advocating for whatever you think I am.
          -My mantra: Find a concept you love and write your fucking heart out.
          -If this is Jon’s way of doing that. Fucking great for him.
          -HalfMartian didn’t give any examples. What are you talking about.
          -I’m not defending Carson’s article. I’m offering a MY PERSPECTIVE on MY INTERPRETATION of the story that I feel is different from the poster I replied to.
          -Love your enthusiasm. Need more of that around these parts.

          • DforVendetta

            Well said.

            But….

            From Swingers to this? My perspective/interpretation is that, much like the Chef, Jon was playing it safe when he wrote this. The story is a mirror for where his mind is and right now he’s in the Tweet stage. I can’t wait to see his food truck. That’s all I’m saying.

            Even established folks play it safe. Wanting to keep their status.

            Peace.

          • Linkthis83

            Well, maybe this is just where he’s at internally. He’s not at our stage of “fuck’em. We’ll write what we like.” I have no doubts that some writers just happen to pen shit at just the write moment. I’m sure there are a lot of writers out there that would love to retain the moment when they connected to a story/script.

            There are so many influences other than simple intention for a script. Even in your approach to not write like a “hack”, even if what you write isn’t “hackish” it won’t mean it worked. Or that it delivered. Or that it had the impact you intended. These are all qualities that still have to exist. Unless you don’t care about those.

            I’m all for writers setting a goal of writing what they want. But there’s also the annoying business side of things. And like it or not, you’ve gotta play some ball at some times. Sometimes in life we just have to do what we gotta do until we can do what we want to do.

            Also, storytelling is universal. So that fact that elements are delivered similarly doesn’t make them hackish. I think you’re focused more on those who are willing to craft their story however necessary to make a buck. That is not an ideal situation, but some people have just got to go that path. Others, want that life. We are always going to have the movies that are “cookie cutter” and we’ll also have the DforVendettas pushing for what they want from the industry.

            Richard Kelly didn’t sell out on Donnie Darko. It was his first script. His first opportunity. And he wouldn’t do a deal unless he could direct it. Luckily, he eventually got his chance. But he’s the exception, not the majority.

            I have script ideas that I won’t let go unless I get a lot of say in what happens. But first, I have to get to that scenario. So, my goal is to write some stuff first that hopefully leads me to where I want to go. If I have to sell out a little, then so be it. Everything I write will have my heart in it. There’s nothing I can do about that. I also have some internal principles that I believe I won’t budge on either. So, hopefully I encounter these moments and get to see what happens.

          • DforVendetta

            My bad. Someone else gave examples.

  • Jovan Jevtic

    Not worth:double worth the read

  • bluedenham

    Why do they give away the entire plot in the trailer? I don’t get why marketing companies do this. Who needs to go see the movie when you’ve already seen the 60 second version?

    • HalfMartian

      Agree, even just the poster shows the “happy ending.”

    • ScottStrybos

      “The results of a survey conducted by YouGov on what Americans think of movie trailers showed that 49% of those surveyed felt that trailers these days tend to show all the “best scenes,” and 32% think that they give away too much of the plot.

      But even though nearly half of us feel like we’ve already seen all the good bits before stepping in to the theater, only 19% have ever let that stop them from going to see a movie.”

      • bluedenham

        Man is that frustrating! Well, I’m definitely part of the 19%.

      • Midnight Luck

        If you look at the movies everyone is going to in droves, they are movies that take no chances, movies that have no question marks in them. They are easy to understand, won’t surprise the audience with something they aren’t expecting and might scare their tender sensibilities. Which is why
        Scarlett Johansson in Captain America is fine for 10 billion people to go see and plop down their 20 bucks, but Scarlett in Under the Skin is way too scary and threatening. Look at the trailer of CA2 vs. UtS, one takes no brain power, you know exactly what story you are given, the other trailer is all mystery and leaves things unsure. That movie: SKIN, no one will go see (except serious movie lovers like myself).

        I think the studios want to give people everything so they will trust it and won’t have to think about it, won’t be surprised.

        Now will CHEF make 300 mil in its first week, no, but it is way more likely more people will go see it if they grasp everything about the story in a 60 second blurb so there are no surprises in store.

        :::: Now this is all being said with the understanding that I loved, loved SWINGERS, and really want to see CHEF. I think Favreau can really bring the goods when he wants to. IRON MAN was one of the best tights movies out there, along with The Dark Knight, but the rest of what he has directed is no where near Swingers level when it comes to writing, but then again he didn’t write IM or Cowboys Vs. Aliens. He did write COUPLES RETREAT, and man was that terrible, so who knows what is up there. But Chef looks much closer to what his style is, and what he is capable of, so I am there, stoppin’ by the food cart on my way in :::::::

        • Kirk Diggler

          I’m dying to see Under the Skin…. and trust me, it has nothing to do with the fact that Scarlett finally gets naked… nothing I tell ya!

          But seriously, I hear it’s very polarizing, some critics love it, some not so much. The one thing I get from the trailer it that it establishes a mood. The atmosphere is creepy and repellent contrasted with the beautiful SJ to draw her in victims. Really want to see it.

          • mulesandmud

            Saw Under The Skin last week; it’s completely fascinating (no spoilers, don’t worry). Sort of a mess, but that only makes it more interesting to watch. Nowadays it’s so hard to find a movie like this, one so willing to try things, one more interested in failing at something new than succeeding at the safe-but-tasteful recycling of familiar elements that defines most narrative filmmaking. Glazer is extremely willing to experiment, maybe moreso than he is interested in making a polished final product. I can’t help but admire that, even if large parts of the film felt frustrating and unsuccessful to me.

            Don’t know if you read the draft of it that Carson reviewed, but if you can believe it, that script was significantly more commercial than the final film. Significantly; this movie is way out there. Budget issues had a lot to do with the changes, I know, but also they’d been developing the film for over a decade, and it kept evolving the entire time. In some ways by the end it came full circle to where they started with the original novel, as filtered through an avant garde sci-fi aesthetic and reality show production model.

            If nothing else, it’s a great lesson in how projects evolve over time, and the need to be fearless about changes from draft to draft. That impulse we all have to be protective about our first draft is the surest way to stunt a story’s growth. Never be afraid to make your next draft unrecognizable from your last, I say.

          • Midnight Luck

            Exactly, and exactly my point from above. So many movies just don’t take any chances with anything, and therefore don’t take chances in the trailer as well. They just want to give the audience exactly what it expects, both in 30-60 seconds, as well as in 2 hours.

            I want to see something where no one plays it safe.

            Saw ENEMY and it also surfed the edges, but not sure how successfully.

          • mulesandmud

            I saw Enemy as well. Felt a bit too elusive in the end, as if it couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be deeply meaningful and symbolic or just baffling, ambiguous, and creepy. Did you get that at all?

            Still, huge amounts of it stuck with me, so that’s something. I admired it’s minimal, classy surrealism, and was impressed with everyone involved. If every movie failed like that one, I’d probably complain a lot less.

          • Midnight Luck

            yeah, it was actually upsetting to me how the beginning and ending were constructed. It felt like the beginning scene with live naked girls and a tarantula and the final scene with the tarantula in the bedroom were from a student film, trying to be deep and make the viewer wonder if they missed something but overall the director was just being lame yet pretentious.

            I enjoyed the rest of the movie though. I thought it was well done overall. Though they didn’t answer pretty much any questions they raised. The actor dies along with the guys girlfriend in the car, but they never tie up any scenes, never show an aftermath. There were just so many things left hanging. That was fine overall for me, but it would have been nice to answer a question here or there about the story.

            “If every movie failed like that one, I’d probably complain a lot less”- me too.

          • Midnight Luck

            I really want to see it as well.
            I liked the short they posted on IMDB about the making of it, where supposedly a lot of the guys didn’t know they were being filmed. I REALLY don’t buy that. Who wouldn’t spot Scarlett as the actor we all know? Just because she has a black wig on? come on. Don’t buy it. Plus, she has, hands down one of THE MOST UNIQUE and MEMORABLE voices in the world. You hear it (HER) and you don’t go, “I wonder where I know that voice”, you just KNOW it is SJ. So, why would these noobs not know it is her? Makes no sense, unless they were idiots. It isn’t like it was filmed in some tiny remote African village.

            Anyhow, I am so off topic. Really want to see it as well. Definitely love movies with major Creep factors, and this one looks like it could be just the thing.

        • cjob3

          He directed Zathura too. Very underrated.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yes, I saw Zathura, and it was ok, not great, not bad, just ok. It was the first time I saw Kristen Stewart, and she stood out, mostly because she didn’t seem real. She looked sparkly or something, too perfect of skin, not sure why, but I remember her pretty vividly. The game was cool, liked that old school, yet futuristic aspect of it, so that was great. Overall though, something lacked in the story, and I am still not sure what that was. I think Favreau was trying too hard to make it a likable kids movie, and it hurt it. Too “aww schucks” and not enough PG-13 (or slightly rebellious) for me.

        • Franchise Blueprints

          That movie: SKIN, no one will go see (except serious movie lovers like myself).

          I’m one of the (un)fortunate that don’t live in L.A or N.Y . In return movies like SKIN or Spike Lee’s Old Boy get a one time slot showing in a AMC chain 40 miles away from where I live. There’s a lot of movies I wished I could support. But I’m considered the vast majority and the only acceptable choices are CA2 as dictated by Hollywood and the theater chains.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        I agree with the statistics. And that’s a major reason I rarely see comedies at the theater because ALL the best jokes are told in the trailer. I’m in the camp they show too damn much.

  • Casper Chris

    Man, it’s been almost five years since we last had a “Genius” script.

    What’s going on?

    • DforVendetta

      I’m working on it.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      This might be heresy, but did anyone think Source Code was maybe impressive and not genius. I know I’m very late to the party commenting. The thing Carson blasted Deja Vu for was also done in Source Code. At the very end, in both movies the guy HAD TO GET the girl. In both movies the time paradox consequences went out the window in order to satisfy that. It should have ended this way. Colter saving the train in one parallel universe, caused ALL the bombing events to happen in his universe. And he was past the point of being able to go back in time and correct it. In return both Goodwin and Colter are charged with treason and their punishment is perpetual mind wipe to be used forever in the source code machine.–genius

      • mulesandmud

        I’ve got plenty of problems with that script. It’s a well-written and well-constructed piece of work, to be sure, but that doesn’t earn it the ‘g’ word. Not even close.

        The movie, while different from the script in places, was very well-made, a totally respectable interpretation, and ultimately felt pretty forgettable. That said a lot about the material, I thought.

        • Casper Chris

          Agreed.Forgettable and genius don’t go hand in hand. And forgettable is exactly what Source Code was.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I agree certain aspects of the film played out better than the script. My mistake was reading the script first. Subconsciously I set the script as the high bar. Any movie I actually plan on seeing I try to go in a blank slate.

            The movie did present Rutledge in a believable manner, not an egocentric mad scientist.
            The dirty bomb was a better plot device.
            Having Goodwin as a woman was a good choice.
            Having dual detonation devices on the bomb was smart.
            Having Colter get caught trying to steal the gun the first time was smart.
            Pretending he served with Colter in order to call his dad was brilliant.
            The explanation of how the source code only effected the future not the past was very plausible.

            Inside the parallel universe I accept he’s Sean. Inside the vessel and life support he should physically represent Colter.
            I hated he immediately told Christina everything the very first time he saw her.
            Also they played loose with the 8 minute time frame.
            Didn’t care for Derek’s motivation.
            Didn’t believe Derek would surrender in a remote location peacefully.
            It would of made more sense for him to get as close to downtown Chicago as possible and self detonate.

            The movie overall is forgettable but serviceable when viewed.

      • Casper Chris

        I agree completely.

        I actually think A Killing on Carnival Row was more deserving of that rating (which it got, but not by Carson). But yea, I would’ve probably given Source Code DWTR and Carnival impressive.

  • Randy Williams

    The poster gives me a “Little Miss Sunshine” vibe. All yellow, the vehicle playing a big part in the story, ensemble cast. The same but different.

    Sounds like a script that is timely. McDonalds’ sales is down, people are becoming “foodies” thanks in part to social media where everyone wants to share where they’re dining and what they’re eating.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      Good analysis. Still not interested in seeing it.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Great review, Carson. Sold! I’m going to see “Chef” when it comes out.

    • ScottStrybos

      These are not the droids you are looking for

  • JWF

    sounds like a pretty similar premise to the Irish film The Van which starred Colm Meaney, worth checking out if you haven’t seen it – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118064/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl

  • gonzorama

    The best movie-going experience I’ve had in a long time was seeing Nymphomaniac pt.1 last night. Very smart cinema, awesome performances and intelligent writing. It wasn’t dumbed-down at all. Going to see pt. 2 tonight.

  • mulesandmud

    I love it when filmmakers find metaphors for filmmaking in their projects. That metaphors can exist on any scale and in varying degrees of bluntness, and ends up teaching as much about the filmmaker as it does about the artform/industry they work in.

    Inception is great for the way its hyperlogical version of dream logic perfectly describes Nolan’s own convoluted but rigorously OCD approach to plotting and theme. He also explored some of those same ideas in The Prestige.

    The rebellion in Star Wars mirrors George Lucas and his fellow 70s Film Brats’ resistance to the Hollywood Empire.

    The Truman Show rests somewhere between science fiction and satire in the way Peter Weir and Andrew Niccol explode the idea of film staging and television watching into an absurd existential crisis.

    P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights uses the shadow industry of pornography as an analog to both the bottom-line cynicism of commercial filmmaking, and the passionate ambition and humanity that underlies it.

    Brian DePalma loved to set his crime stories on the margins of the film industry, then charge them with commentary about the film industry (Blow Out, Body Double, etc). He’s not the only one who played that game, either (see Peeping Tom, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Drive, Mulholland Drive, and countless others).

    This leads to a whole other pseudo-genre of movies that use the film industry more overtly as their subject – The Player, Sunset Boulevard, Day For Night, Tropic Thunder, etc. – giving us a more direct peek behind the curtain. Unless their take on the industry is unique and/or masterful, though, I usually prefer the metaphor to the real thing. Nothing puts me to sleep faster than an indy film about people making an indy film, about an indy film, about an indy film, about an indy film…

    I know I’ve left out some great ones here. Anyone care to suggest other worthy examples of films that find great filmmaking metaphors?

    • Kirk Diggler

      Boogie Nights is also about how dysfunctional individuals can come together to find the family they were lacking in their ‘other lives’.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        I hate when they make these porn movies and they find all these creative angles to tell a story. And in the end you’ll think porn was some DOW chemical product and these are the tales of those industry workers.
        I can’t think of one movie about the porn industry where it was mostly about sex or about the guy overly ecstatic to go to work every single day!!! The most obvious aspect is played down to the point of parody.

  • mulesandmud

    Apologies, but I missed this comment somehow, probably lost it in the fog of moderation. I agree all around.

    Most movies made by Coppolas tend to have exciting autobiographical undertones. Must be hardwired into the family artmaking philosophy.