Genre: Dark Comedy?
Premise: When her more popular twin dies in a horrific car accident, a young woman unwittingly takes on her sister’s identity.
About: This 2011 Black List script is currently in post-production. Jenee LaMarque is both the writer and director. Zoe Kazan will star as both twins. Before this, LaMarque had only made a couple of shorts. So this is his feature debut.
Writer: Jenee LaMarque
Details: “Draft A-2″ 98 pages
In a lot of ways, this felt like a Mike White script. It had that sort of weird dark sense of humor coupled with that Mike White uncomfortableness. But at the same time, it felt kind of…off. And not in the right way. I’m going to make a huge generalization here and I apologize to my French peeps in advance, but when I saw the name of the writer afterwards and realized he was French, I immediately thought…”Hmmm, so maybe all those weird moments weren’t on purpose. Maybe they’re played straight but because of the cultural differences, they simply come off as unique.” Because that’s the thing. This script feels like it’s coming from a unique voice. But it may simply be a language/cultural barrier thing.
Anyway, Laurel is 30 years old and still lives at home where she takes care of her father, who’s perfectly capable of taking care of himself, but has gotten lazy over the years since his wife died.
Laurel also has a boyfriend who’s 17 years old, who she loses her virginity to in the first scene. It’s totally awkward and weird, especially afterwards when Laurel asks the guy if he’s her boyfriend now. His non-commital answer makes you squirm in your seat.
That’s when we meet Audrey, Laurel’s beautiful twin sister. I’m not sure how one identical twin sister can look ugly and the other stunning, but that’s the case with these two. Laurel’s sick of Audrey living at home and taking care of a father who doesn’t need taking care of. So she invites her to move out and live with her back at her place.
The two hop in the car to talk about it but a few minutes later – BAM! – a huge car crash. Audrey is obliterated and burnt to a crisp. Laurel wakes up in the hospital and learns that her sister is dead. That her sister *LAUREL* is dead. That’s right. Everyone thinks Laurel died and not Audrey.
At first, Laurel tries to tell everyone she’s not Audrey, but nobody listens. That’s when she realizes that if she’s Audrey, she has an excuse to get out from under her father and start living her life. So she gets an Audrey makeover, transforming her into a super-hottie, and starts living the glamorous life.
Which, predictably, isn’t very glamorous. She finds out she (as in ‘Audrey’) has been sleeping with a married man. And that she treats most of the people around her like shit, particularly the tenants in the building she manages, which includes a young man named Basel. While Basel was a hideous annoying loser in Audrey’s book, he’s a dreamboat in Laurel’s, and the two start hanging out together, quickly falling in love.
Eventually, though, trying to be Audrey becomes too much for Laurel, and she tells everyone the truth. Everyone’s a mix between confused and pissed off, and Laurel soon finds herself in a strange purgatory where she’s neither Laurel or Audrey, but somewhere in between. In the end, she’s going to have to go one way or the other, as well as grow up a little, a leap we’re not sure she can make.
The first thing I’ll say about this script is that it’s different. I’ll give it that (and I’m guessing that’s why it made the Black List). Now I admit I’m still not sure whether it’s different on purpose or by accident, but different is different. For example, the opening scene where we have this 30 year old woman losing her virginity to a 17 year old high school kid — I’d never seen that. So immediately I sat up and was like…whoa, this ain’t going to be your typical Sunday afternoon script read.
In fact, the big thing The Pretty One has going for it is its main character, as she’s someone you’ve never quite seen before. One of the things that impresses me while reading is when I’m consistently unsure of what the main character is going to do next, since 99 times out of a 100, protagonists do exactly what I assume they’re going to do. I didn’t know what the hell Laurel was going to do, what the hell she was going to say. And that made her, at the very least, interesting.
But sometimes you can go too far – make things too unpredictable and weird – and I felt that was the case with Laurel and Basel, who just had this really kooky relationship. For some odd reason out of nowhere they start referring to each other as “Mr. and Mrs. Brown” and pretend that they’re married and have two kids. Apparently this makes it easier for the two to talk to each other. Ummm, huh??
These indie films usually fall into one of two categories for me. They go that route where they’re truly original, a unique independent experience all their own – something like Rushmore or Chuck and Buck or Whale Rider. Or they go that route of “I Want To Be A Sundance Film,” and they basically become the prototypical Sundance experience, with the quirky characters and the quirky story, hitting all the beats they *believe* the Sundance audience will love. This includes movies like Running With Scissors, The Wackness, and even Little Miss Sunshine to a degree. I’m not saying that these movies are bad – just that they’re desperate for that particular audience, and it can be annoying.
The Pretty One, ironically, falls somewhere in between those two worlds. It’s just a hard screenplay to define. It has its moments, for sure. And it’s unique. But after you’ve finished it, you don’t feel like you’ve witnessed a real experience in a person’s life. You feel like you’ve experienced a writer writing a really quirky screenplay, which is why I can’t recommend it.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Show and Don’t Tell Alert. - As we all know, you’d like to convey things about your characters by showing and not telling. When characters tell us things about other characters or themselves, it’s not nearly as impactful as the right image. So in the opening scene, in order to convey the differences between the two sisters, Hunter (the 17 year old Laurel sleeps with) glances around Laurel’s (and Audrey’s former) room. He sees one bulletin board inundated with dozens of ribbons. ”That’s Audrey’s,” Laurel says. And then he looks over to the board above Laurel’s dresser, which has a single pathetic “participant” ribbon on it. ”That’s mine.” Within a span of 1/8 of a page, we understand the difference between these two sisters.
What I learned 2: One of the ways to visually show emotionally stunted characters (or characters who haven’t grown up) is to put them in a relationship with someone much younger than them. So here, the reason 30 year old Laurel is with a 17 year old, is to show that she basically still lives life as a child, that she hasn’t grown up yet.