Genre: Drama/Black Comedy/Thriller
Premise: A Midwestern wife/schoolteacher begins to suspect that her husband’s cheating on her, so enlists the help of a fellow teacher she has the hots for to catch him in the act.
About: This was the #1 script on the 2013 Black List. Some of you will probably be depressed to hear that the writer, Andrew Sodroski, attended Harvard, implying that in order to be a top screenwriter, one must be Ivy League educated. But fear not, Sodroski’s road was not an easy one. He’s been writing since at least 2007 (when he wrote his only other known credit, a video short titled, “The Handmaid”), and therefore had to put in plenty of blood sweat and tears to get to this point. Wait, I don’t know if that makes us feel better or worse. If someone from Harvard is having a tough time breaking into Hollywood, what does that say about the rest of us?? Anyway, the script is being directed by heavy-hitting documentarian Errol Morris (this will be his first feature) and have Naomi Watts in the lead role.
Writer: Andrew Sodroski
Details: 117 pages


I suppose I should be excited that I’m one of the few people reading today’s script who’s actually BEEN to Holland, Michigan. I’m thinking that makes me better than everyone else somehow. Not sure how that would be, exactly, but I’m working on it.

What I don’t seem to have perspective on is why the number 1 Black List script had so few votes this year (45 I think?). I remember a couple of years ago when The Imitation Game, the number 1 script on the list, had like 120 votes. What does this mean? That not as many people are voting on the Black List? Or does it mean there are actually a lot more good scripts in town and the votes are more evenly dispersed (or possibly the opposite – there’s nothing good so they’re more evenly dispersed)? I’m not sure. But the low vote count is tickling (tee-hee) my concerned bone. Let’s untickle it with a little review, shall we?

“Holland, Michigan” is a strange little script. The first half is basically a combination of past Black List entries “The Details,” “The Oranges,” and “Jeff Who Lives At Home.” It’s a quirky little story about a Midwestern teacher named Nancy Vandergroot (nailed the Midwestern name) who’s feeling a little stuck in life. Much of this is via her own doing, though she doesn’t realize it. This is that woman in town who lives by God’s word, and who’s never performed an evil deed in her life.

Nancy has a wonderful little boy, Harry, and an optometrist husband, Fred, who spends the majority of his free time on his elaborate train set in the basement. To say that Nancy is a little jealous of that train set is a Midwestern understatement.

Well one day, Nancy is going through her jewelry box, only to realize that one of her earrings is missing. At first she suspects the babysitter, but after conferring with another teacher at her school, reformed bad-boy Dave, he convinces her to look deeper before she convicts anyone. She does, and is surprised when she stumbles across a group of Polaroid pictures in her husband’s basement.

Strangely, most of the pictures are of the model houses he’s built into his train set, but one is of a woman, and this is when she begins to suspect what was previously unfathomable. That her husband is cheating on her. After doing some more investigating, she gets a reluctant Dave (who she’s beginning to see romantically) to follow her husband on his next business trip in hopes of catching him in the act.

Dave does, and here is where we move past the mid-point, and EVERYTHING changes. I will say this. I was wondering what the big deal was about Holland, Michigan through those first 60 pages. I mean don’t get me wrong. It was good. A fun look at Midwestern America. I just didn’t understand what about it was “No. 1 Worthy.” However, when we find out what Fred is REALLY doing on these business trips and what’s really going on with his elaborate train set, let’s just say you immediately understand why the script snagged the top spot.

Okay, since you can’t discuss this script without spoilers, I’ll warn you when they’re coming. But I wanted to start by saying even before the twist came around, there was some pretty good writing to admire.

What stuck out to me was that all the characters had something they were doing. In a character piece, that’s essential. I see too many amateur writers giving only their hero and romantic lead “things” to do. Good writers give everyone something to do. So here, Fred, the husband, is all about his train set. Harry, the son, is all about getting ready for a dance he’s doing at the upcoming fair. Nancy is first obsessed with her missing earring, and then later with her husband’s potential infidelity. And Dave is trying to help a struggling student in one of his classes. These pursuits are what individualize and deepen your characters. Without them, they’re more “words on a page” than “people in a world.”

And as I always say, even when you’re writing these smaller character-driven pieces, you still want to use a goal to drive the story. That’s because goals KEEP YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS ACTIVE, which is exactly how Nancy is drawn. At first, she’s looking into who stole her earring, and that leads to her following clues to determine if her husband is cheating on her. This is the action that drives the story along. It’s why we keep turning the pages. If Nancy’s simply hanging out with friends, bitching about her husband, we get bored quickly. She NEEDS THAT GOAL. The story NEEDS TO PUSH TOWARDS SOMETHING.

(spoilers) Okay, now we’ll get into why this script kicks ass. Holland, Michigan has a great little twist. We realize that Fred is not, in fact, having affairs. He’s killing these women. And all the beautifully crafted perfectly detailed houses on his model train set? Those are his trophies. Those are the houses of all the women he’s killed. Oh no!

I LOVED this twist. Twists are always a balancing act. You can’t oversell them beforehand or we’re going to know they’re coming. You can’t undersell them either, or when they happen, we’re going to be like, “Where the hell did that come from?” Holland, Michigan got that balance about as right as I’ve ever seen it. Because when it happened, I was shocked. But at the same time, I said, “Of course!” And remembered all the clues that had been set up. An expertly crafted major twist is the kind of writing that gets Black List voters drooling.

My problem with the script is more about what comes afterwards. I’m not going to get into details, but I think the script tried too hard to live up to its huge twist, and have that third act feel just as big and crazy as the twist itself. As a result, we get a series of questionable choices (Dave deciding to clean up the crime scene he caught Fred in?) and a finale that felt more like an ode to Fatal Attraction than the unique genre-bending script we’d been reading.

Then again, that’s the gamble you take with a script like this. We essentially have a quirky indie black comedy in the script’s first half, then a straight up thriller in the second. Whether you like it or not, there’s going to be some screenwriting collateral damage from that choice.

But man, that twist was so damn good and unexpected, it made me remember why I love reading scripts so much – it’s to find stuff like Holland, Michigan. It’s by no means a perfect script, but definitely worth the read.

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

What I learned: Characters who are stuck in life (like Nancy, or Lester from American Beauty) who are then “set free,” are always interesting because they’re essentially fish-out-of-water characters, and fish-out-of-water characters are fun to watch. Here are these people who have been “good” all their lives, now getting to be “bad.” – I mean how can you screw that up?  Indeed, Nancy is fun to watch for this very reason.

What I learned 2: A friendly reminder to always look for ways to spice up your dialogue. Never go with the expected response. In a great little scene where Fred (who’s an eye doctor) gives Dave an eye exam, they finish up and Fred tells Dave that his eyes are good. Now I want you to think of how you’d write that line of Fred’s. Go ahead, write down what you might have him say. A lazy writer might throw in something like, “Everything looks good.” Sure, it gets the point across, but it’s boring, right? Instead, Sodroski has Fred say, “Well sir, we like to say that only God has perfect vision, but you come pretty darned close.” It’s a sentence that has so much more life to it. What line did you come up with? Share it in the comments. ☺

  • MaliboJackk

    “I AM AN
    insane EYE
    doctor and I am
    going to kill you now
    — the eye chart
    from my favorite Gahan Wilson cartoon.

  • Zmanx

    Reminded me of a knock off Cohen Bros. script. Good but read like a stepbrother of Fargo. I just couldn’t read nancy and not hear Frances McDermott as marge gunderson.

  • RK

    I found it fairly off putting that the protagonist seemed to shift after the twist from Nancy to Dave. Suddenly he was the one making all the decisions and we were following him more than Nancy. And then of course very quickly shifted back to her at the end. I just felt like I wasn’t following a character’s journey so much as a writer’s plot at that point. Plus all the little subplots didn’t really go anywhere. The earring got us to the supposed infidelity (but SO much time was spent at the beginning looking for it/accusing Candy/etc), but that’s it. All the stuff with Dave’s student and the gang seemed like a lot of set up and no pay off (except that he had been in a gang, but like, eh).

    I liked the dialogue, and the actual way the script was written, but it just felt really messy and all over the place to me, especially from the #1 Blacklist script. Maybe that’s just me, though?

  • Ange Neale

    Take 2 – first post seems to have evaporated…
    1/ Looks good from this side, and even clearer from yours.
    And since we’re going with dark comedy…
    2/ With eyesight that good, you could almost see into men’s souls. Lucky for me, huh?

  • tipofthenose

    Happy new year to everyone!

    I think the problem with the script is the target audience. If you don’t know what the story is about people who like a good old thriller won’t watch the first half and people who like comedies will be put off by the second part.
    When I read the script it had the feeling of a very light funny comedy and the twist was very harsh. So yeah I think from a screenwriters point of view this is a super cool IDEA, but as a movie this will be a tough one. The first part must already be very realistic to not make the switch so hard.

    A I think, I only read all the way to the midpoint cause I thought why is this number 1??? If it would just have been some random screenplay I might have stopped earlier.

  • Matthew Garry

    “Almost as good as hindsight, sir, 20/20″

    I’ve read a fair bit into the blacklist now, and it’s less impressive than I expected. It’s by no means bad on average, but I can’t shake the feeling that, given a year’s worth of AOW submissions, a pick of the best entries would be more than a little competitive than what’s currently in the blacklist.

    So far the ones that stood out for me are:
    -Tchaikovsky’s Requiem
    -Free Byrd
    -The Fixer

    My new year’s resolution is going to be trying to keep tabs on all AOW submissions over the coming year and figure out a way to get readers to vote, and so produce an informal ad-hoc “best of AOW” list.

    • ripleyy

      I don’t know why Tchaikovsky’s Requiem still lingers on me, but it does. Also, I have to say “Holland” reminds me a lot of “Cake” for some reason, from the review that is. I never personally read “Holland” but it sounds like it would be best waiting to see it on the big screen. Plus, Naomi could do this role justice.

      • Matthew Garry

        As far as Tchaikovsky’s Requiem is concerned, what really brought it home for me was the final realisation of the main character, which also answered the dramatic question perfectly. It completely broadsided me, since it was under my nose the whole time.

        Other than that it also felt as if the writer had spent more time just doing research on the plot than some others spend time writing their entire screenplay.

        And finally, the eponymous piece of music seamlessly accompanying the plot was masterfully done.

    • Crazdwrtr

      What are some other favorites from the Black List? With so many on the list, hard to figure out where to start.

  • andyjaxfl

    How do you blend quirky black comedy with a serial killer thriller? Sounds like an odd mashup. Are there shades of a thriller in the first sixty of this script, so when the mid-point shift arrives the reader isn’t taken off-guard by the sudden and drastic change in tone?

  • Montana Gillis

    Serial Killer Eye Doctor to patient… “Any better and you’d see what people don’t want you to!”

  • Jim Dandy

    Of all the scripts I read during 2013, this was the best, along with Nightcrawler. All the others on the Black List were average to say the least.

    With Holland, Michigan, I didn’t view the first half as a quirky indie comedy and the second half a thriller. I found the first half to be a brooding, menacing, off-kilter psycho-drama which nicely segued into the second half. If you have a twisted mind you could interpret the first half as a black comedy, a la the Coen Brothers. The midpoint surprise was a shock, but I had a feeling a few pages before it that something like that would happen. Every scene was full of tension and a feeling of an unspecified, yet tangible, threat. What was great about it was all the expertly-constructed misdirections, which didn’t feel like misdirections (normally misdirections are easy to spot in thrillers). Although it was slow to get going, the story grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t let go.

    The problem I had was with the behaviour of Dave. It felt like his actions and motivations were shoehorned into the plot. If Nancy had so much evidence against Fred, why did Dave have to disguise the murder he witnessed? Another thing annoyed me – the nature of the murders was so grisly that surely there would be some DNA evidence left behind. Did Dave really think he could clean up the crime scene and not leave any evidence? And why didn’t the police establish that it was the work of a serial killer, seeing as Fred had killed so many times before? And the ending annoyed me – didn’t anyone notice all these people breaking down motel doors and having Mexican standoffs?

    Apart from my concerns, the script still blew me away with its tone and tightness.

  • jger15

    Spot on review Carson! This one actually reminded me a lot of The World’s End in the way it connected seemingly two different films into one.

    Really enjoyed until that point when things seemed to fall apart with Dave’s choices. Hoping Errol will clean that up.

  • Illimani Ferreira

    “Good news is that you don’t need glasses, bad news is that I’m gonna choo choo your eyes off.”

  • NajlaAnn

    The train twist was quite clever and I did not see coming.

    • walker

      If you didn’t see that train coming perhaps you need your eyes examined.

      • Alex Palmer


        • walker

          Hey there Alex. My remark was intended to be an oblique reference to the subject matter of the script in question while at the same time poking fun at the heavy handed manner in which the tonal shift was executed. It appears that NajlaAnn utterly missed that, but that doesn’t really qualify as a “zinger”.

      • NajlaAnn

        Please reread my post. I was referring to the TWIST, not the train. Perhaps your eyes missed that five letter word.

  • drifting in space

    This was a good read, very fast and well written. But I have the same qualm with it as you. After the twist, things spiral too much out of control and border on ludicrous.

    Dave’s motivations were not organic. His “bad-boy” past didn’t fit. The ending was way off. Their relationship started how most affairs do, but then it got very… I don’t know, something felt wrong with the way they interacted.

    But the first 60, up until and shortly after the twist, had me hanging. However, it was mostly because I was intrigued with the affair plot, which I suppose is great because it distracted me enough from the train stuff that the twist was really cool.

    I could see why this would get some reads. A lot of it was great, and with some tightening, I think we’d have a cool little thriller. It’s too bad the Coen brothers don’t make films that aren’t their material. This would be a good one.

  • fragglewriter

    I’m reading Holland, Michigan as I type:

    pg. 9 – Hispanic and Dutch girl fight about the pancakes? seems forced, but whatever.
    pg. 10 – If sparks are flying between Nancy and Dave why would she be upset that’s he’s cheating when she’s basically doing the same thing?
    pg. 11 – “There’s no swearing in that?” Are they currently watching TV or talking about a movie. Carson, I thought you were against references that weren’t organic as it takes the reader out of the script? I guess page 12 was the surprise. SMH
    pg. 14 – So far, I don’t understand the obsession about the pearl earring and why Candy is terrified by Nancy?
    pg. 15 – Nancy finds Dave’s house on the teacher’s directory? Really? I guess there’s no such thing as privacy amongst your peers. Why is she confided in Dave about her earring and not pestering her husband?

    I stopped reading. I just doesn’t make logical sense. I can understand her really driving it home to Fred about the earring, but she says something, and then lets him off the hook.

    {X} wasn’t for me.

    But good luck to the writer!

    • J.R.

      1. Sparks does not equate to cheating. It is not “basically the same thing”
      2. Being obsessed with finding the pearl earring is a reflection of just how boring and unexciting her life is.
      3. I taught high school for 7 years. Everything is accessible in the Student and Staff Information System. Addresses and phone numbers. All you need is a teachers login.

      Seems like you did a lot of nitpicking. A “What the hell did I just read?” …really?

      • blueiis0112

        2. I am assuming that it is not detailed in the script but maybe in the writer’s imagination the earring was a family heirloom. If I could get back my grandmother’s wedding band, I would obsess about it.

        • J.R.

          It is better left unsaid. Her being obsessed over finding something as trivial as a single earring says a lot about her life. It lacks excitement. It is mundane. It’s stereotypical midwestern wife sort of stuff.

      • fragglewriter

        1. And I guess pulling out does not meant going all the way.
        2. How is the reader to know that? Don’t assume, clarify.
        3. That’s interesting. I’ll keep that in mind.

        Nitpicking or analyzing a script? This is what this site is for, so unless the rules has changed since the end of the year, I’ll keep on. Seriously!

    • Amber Rose

      There is definitely a fine line between nitpicking and critiquing. I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to offer notes when you’ve not read the entire script, let it come together as a whole, and thought about it for a bit.

      I develop scripts for a living. I read every script to the last page. And unless a script is absolutely fraught with typos/errors/sloppiness, I overlook them in lieu of how the big three, characters, story and dialogue, create the big picture.

      • fragglewriter

        If you don’t like my analysis, skip over my name or better yet, get thick skinned.

  • GoIrish

    “The good news: your eyes are great. The bad news: you’re gonna regret that perfect vision when you see my bill…ha! Just a little ocular humor. Anyway, I’ll SEE you in 12 months.”

    No reaction. Fred shakes his head as he rises from his chair.

  • Alex Palmer

    One of the things that jumped out at me was the unconventional formatting (similar to that used in Nightcrawler) where traditional sluglines aren’t used.

    I’m not sure what I think about the idea. Both Nightcrawler and Holland, Michigan use it to good effect: transitions read in a more cinematic way, because they are more visually suggestive. That said, my Initial read of Nightcrawler felt that much more laborious.

    I hope it doesn’t encourage everyone to have a pop at this style. That could result in a glut of scripts that border on the incomprehensible.


    • fragglewriter

      Definitely agree. I had to read the slug lines at least twice and then flip back to the previous page. It felt a little confusing, as I didn’t know where I was (place) in the script.

      But I think if the writer used the traditional slug lines, it wouldn’t have changed my opinion on the story.

  • Midnight Luck

    does anyone out there have Nightcrawler? A would be so grateful if someone would send it along. thank you

    m (at) blackluck dot com

    • Mike.H

      I’m pretty blunt when it comes to opinions, Nightcrawler will do nowhere near decent box office. It reminded me an awful lot of the Messenger on bike script with Gordon Levitt due to its pacing and limited story line. Not a four quadrant level of interest.

      • JW

        Nightcrawler was one of those scripts where the ending should have been the midpoint. ahahah!

        • Alex Palmer

          Nightcrawler had great characters, but I agree that the ending was a little anti-climactic. No way it generates good word of mouth from that.

          • JW

            I thought it did have solid characterization, and even as a fan of films that don’t have to abide by structure or a rigid formula, I thought this was one of those instances where knowing the rules just to break them would have actually helped. The idea of going after stories for the sake of the thrill is a great, great premise. And, with someone not quite in their “right” mind it’s even more “dangerous”. But, I just felt that the decisions made further on in the script didn’t really warrant the beginning. How is this guy such a loser and then all of a sudden he gets this guy working for him and he’s a corporate exec breaking down wages and supply/demand. Felt a little uneven and more along the lines of character for the sake of story, rather than authentic. You know, all the things “readers” say where they can spot an “amateur” a mile away, but someone with a name does it and it’s #fuckingenius!

          • filmklassik

            NIGHTCRAWLER is exceedingly well-written, but most of the praise it is getting is — me’thinks — due to its style and not its story. It takes a lot self-awareness to recognize when you are being seduced by a master stylist and not a STORYTELLER, and movies, as William Goldman has written, are first last and foremost always about STORY.

          • drifting in space

            Especially when you see something like an entire page consisting of an action just getting BIGGER AND BIGGER for no goddamn reason.

    • Acarl

      Comin’ @ ya!

    • PV

      Midnight, if you have a copy of the script could you forward it to me. Much appreciated.

  • Jovan Jevtic

    I’m just worried how the trailer is going to look like, without giving away the twist and still inviting people to watch it. It seems almost impossible. Loved the formatting.

  • Mike.H

    The culture/naviete of the lady’s dialogue within the script reminded me of Fargo’s lady cop.[ Mcdermot?] No time to check on IMDB, sorry.

    Happy New Year, with new expectations, elevated level of energy and success. :)

  • jones

    Ehhh… It’s alright — but nothing that had me burning to turn pages. I mean, seriously though. The “twist” was obvious from the beginning. Making the train set houses the trophies – now that was a cool way to spin it into at least a little bit of interesting territory. But Nancy was just not all that interesting. A bit cartoony and I think Naomi Watts (and I love her) is totally wrong for this. She’ll just end up doing some Marge impersonation and it’ll suck.

    But every scene between Dave and Nancy felt like it was teetering on the edge of an SNL skit. It was like Faux serious instead of actually serious. And one line in another direction could send it to farce. The writer held the line, but still left all those scenes just feeling incomplete emotionally somehow. No real character resonance. And then the whiplash of decision making at the end between Nancy and Fred was utterly absurd. Not to mention people getting doors kicked in and murdered in motel parking lots with apparently nobody fucking noticing at all. But whatever’s convenient in the moment I guess. And that’s what ultimately doomed the script for me. Too many scenes are about the convenience of the moment. The broken window in the Fred’s office another example of that. Like he wouldn’t see it the next day?

  • blueiis0112

    This reminds me of the story of Herb Baumeister. I suppose because it takes place in the Midwest.

  • ff

    Haven’t read this yet-But my first thought as a married person with a kid is I can almost guarantee this doesn’t make sense.

    Because when you are married and working and have a kid you don’t have TIME to be a killer or else you are the worst husband and father in the world, have a terrible relationship with your kid and wife, and something is already amis.

    Again I haven;t read it but the big twist doesn’t seem so “big’ if you know what I mean. I’ll check it out.

    Thanks for the review as always!

  • Howie428

    As I read the first ten pages of this I was thinking, so this is what an educated northeasterner thinks the Midwest is like? And of course Hollywood based people lap it up. I was just about to let it go on the basis of artistic license when I reached the bit where she has a VHS tape! She lives in the Midwest, not the dark ages!

    We’re expected to buy the idea that her eleven year old kid has not seen Jurassic Park, or indeed other movies where someone says “butt”. I probably could have gone along with this stuff if a more compelling story was pulling me along, but it starts out pretty mundane.

    I carried on reading based on Carson’s assurance that this gets going in the second half and found that for me even the big reveal felt labored and drawn out. I struggled to believe what Dave does after it, because it makes no sense at all. And after that it’s incredibly obvious what his mistake is going to turn out to be.

    I can see this being a decent movie, but only if the director has the sense to do the 90 minute version, rather than the writer’s 120 page version.

    I hope the filmmakers caught the error on page 63 where Dave says “He doesn’t know who I am,” because he only gave him an eye exam and knows his name and where he works! The fix of this also needed for the following scenes where Dave meets with Fred.

    • filmklassik

      Good insights, Howie. I had a similar thought. I can usually sense when it’s an atheist or agnostic writing about midwestern Christians because their tone is usually patronizing and somewhat superior, as if indicating: “Look at these Red Stater rubes with their cutsie religion and their GUNS, etc. How ADORABLE.”

      There’s an element of smugness about it, which I think is not only lazy and condescending, but, frankly, grossly inaccurate, too.

      And for what it’s worth, I am a not-terribly-observant Jew from the Northeast. But I’ve traveled a lot. And most of the midwesterners I know aren’t — well — cartoons.

  • Acarl

    Being a Harvard grad or a grad from anywhere does not a creative mind make.

    • Matty

      Indeed. Look at all of the college/high school drop outs that are wildly successful *cough* Tarantino. Sure, being a Harvard grad indicates a certain level of intelligence, but this ain’t calculus. Artistic types manifest success in so many different ways, schooling means practically nothing, inherently.

  • Alex Palmer

    “With vision like yours, sir, a Blu-Ray wouldn’t be a waste of money.”

  • DD

    This script was weird, man. I kept thinking… who is the audience for this? It’s like that movie Butter in which the midwest becomes fodder for being not as up to date and hip as people on the coast. It’s like Election. It’s like anything with Kristen Wiig. Then…. it becomes a serial killer thriller. It’s just a mish mosh and kinda thin in the character department. I didn’t BUY any of the characters as real people. How this was #1 is beyond me. Was it memorable? Yes. Was it good? Hard to say. Will it make a good movie? Probably not.

    • Crystal

      Woah. Did you really just compare the total mediocrity of Butter to the sheer genius that is Election?

      • DD

        Butter is a pale imitation of Election. And this is a pale imitation of both of those for about 60 pages. Then it changes into a totally different movie.

  • deanb

    “If your eyes were tits, they’d be Pam Anderson’s.”

    • Wes Mantooth

      Fake eyes?

    • filmklassik

      Crude but brilliant.

  • Kirk Diggler

    Read the first 42 so far….. This is the definition of a slow burn. Pity I already read the spoiler about Fred. I wonder what my reaction might be not knowing where it was headed. But 40 minutes in and it’s mostly been about a bored, self-righteous wife obsessing over a pearl earring. She isn’t all that likable the way Marge was from Fargo.

    The writer does a good job of creating some tension, particularly when Dave goes to visit Fred at the Eye Doctor. But the story seems as if it’s been drawn out needlessly.

  • filmklassik

    Strong writing but the shift in tone halfway through from DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES to RED DRAGON is frankly nuts and the ending is too nihilistic to be satisfying.


    For the Love of God, don’t kill Dave!!

  • carsonreeves1

    I thought the stuff with the Klansmen did feel a little off, like a remnant from a previous draft or something. But I felt it added to the character overall. However, I can see how someone would find this to be a strange addition.

  • Frankie Hollywood

    After the doc pulls the eye-tester contraption away, “Obviously you don’t masterbate.”

    • Ange Neale

      That would be ‘masturbate’.

  • drifting in space

    This is a great reply. Really nails a lot of the issues I had reading it as well.

  • Randy Williams

    Harvard educated should get you through a lot of doors if you keep attending alumni reunions and mingle. I know a priest who attended Harvard and makes all the reunions and was asked if he’d like to write.
    My line from the eye doctor… Fred -“They say dilation of the pupils indicates sexual attraction. I can tell who of my patients is gay or not” Dave-‘”Must be those eyedrops, I’m 100% straight. Fred- Well, yeah, happily,, so are your eyes.”

  • John Bradley

    Really great reply!

  • Ange

    I thought the whole assumption of theft thing before turning the house inside out was what put me off & I baled at page 28. I mean, if someone was going to steal earrings, who would take half a pair? Van Gogh? Come off it. If you’re going to steal something and risk going to jail, you’re going to take the damned lot, and not leave a whole bunch of jewelry behind. I figured with a wife that kooky, no wonder the husband’s a looney-tune.

  • Jim Dandy

    I found The Golden Record to be very repetitive. After the first act, each scene seemed the same, just with a different subject. And I found Carl Sagan’s hokeyness annoying. They should have given him a major flaw to overcome, like addiction to crack cocaine. Now that’s a movie I’d pay to see :-)

  • Michael

    Great post. Please post more often, sir. Welcome to the tribe.

    Happy New Year everyone.

  • Lou Rawls’ Ego

    “With eyes like yours, buddy, your beer goggles would make most women unfuckable.’

  • pmlove

    Surprised nobody has mentioned the slightly pointless KKK sub-plot.

    Would have been nice if that linked in to the main story in any way (other than showing the ‘darker side to suburbia’).

  • Wes Mantooth

    I think that one was lifted from Ralph Wiggum in a Simpsons episode.

    • Illimani Ferreira

      Bingo! :)

  • Wes Mantooth

    “If everyone had eyes like yours, I’d be digging ditches right now.”

    • filmklassik


  • Hadley’s Hope

    “It appears that you won’t be needing a pair of glasses anytime soon. Unless you want to look smart.”

  • Citizen M

    These eye jokes are getting cornea and cornea.

  • Citizen M

    The eye jokes are getting cornea.

    • Wes Mantooth

      But the fun is just starting to dilate.

  • Citizen M

    I question whether Carson is wise to review this script, or any other Black List script, before the movie has been released. It could lead to problems for the website.

    That said, my suggested fix for one of the big problem areas in the script is this: when Dave catches Fred in the act, don’t have them fight, have them negotiate.

    Dave has something Fred wants — his silence. Fred has something Dave wants — Nancy. Let them negotiate. Dave stays silent and sees Nancy on the side without Fred objecting. They concoct some sort of a story to tell the child, maybe mummy has to go on conferences like daddy or something. Fred keeps his job. No one in the town is the wiser. Then things start unravelling. The agreement breaks down because they realize they don’t want to share Nancy, and you get a big finale, but a bit different from the one in the script.

  • MaliboJackk

    … got my degree in gynecology. Too many women in that field.
    My eyes. What about my eyes?
    Let’s dilate those eyes. Check the retina.

    As he stumbles out of the office, Dave glances at the diplomas on the wall — one for optometry, the other for gynecology.


    He’s seeing other women alright.
    Your eyes. Your eyes look swollen.
    Fine. My eyes are fine.

  • Crazdwrtr

    Based on logline and title alone, I just thought this sounded so dull. Do you think hinting at the twist and changing the name to something like Train to Murderville, (lol) would improve the script’s first impression. I guess being #1 on the Black List helps readership too.

  • august4

    Well written, but for today’s audiences it’s a bit slow to take shape, but good character development. As for the crime scene cleanup by Dave, I also felt that made no sense. And if it were me, I’d change the ending. I’d make you think Nancy and her boy escaped (running away like they were) and Fred was dead, but then when we see the figures frozen, pull out to see they are actually part of the model train town… and then see Fred with a bag ready for his next trip. Then have him pic her figurine up, blow off some dust, then place it back… frozen forever.

  • Christian Zilko

    Did anyone else think this was copying the unique format that made Fargo so good?

  • Fistacuffs

    Nailed some of my thoughts right on the head. Specifically about how no one noticed he was gone and Dave had moved into the house. And the son is definitely old enough to question why his Dad is gone and this strange man is now living there.

  • Fistacuffs

    Couple of thoughts. I liked the scripts, but I agree with a lot of what PV said. Also, one of the problems I had with it was when Dave told Nancy he was going to follow him because Fred didn’t know who he was. Yet, he just had an eye exam with him, panicked in the middle of it and bailed halfway through. Surely a meticulous, sociopath like Fred would remember this and recognize him later on. Finally, I feel like making a trailer for this film would be really tough. Hopefully it wouldn’t give away too much of the twist that made the script so great.

  • Amber Rose

    The agents certainly don’t stay away from the Black List.

  • Fistacuffs
    • drifting in space

      Oh, shit. That is so awesome.

      • Fistacuffs

        Agreed. I had Jack Coleman in mind when I was reading it, but I mean I guess I’ll take Cranston ;).

        • drifting in space

          I would’ve liked that choice as well. I hope Cranston doesn’t just bring Walt into this.

          • Fistacuffs

            Yeah hopefully he adds a little something extra. Also, isn’t the title of that article kind of a huge spoiler?

          • drifting in space

            BIG TIME. They would have shown it in the trailer anyway.

  • Lucid Walk

    If anyone’s carrying a copy, please email to
    Much appreciated