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Premise: A recently dumped sci-fi geek enlists the most selfish heartless narcissistic ladies man in London to be his wingman.
About: One of the lower-ranked scripts on this year’s Brit List. (edit: added) Mat, the writer, wrote and directed a comedy short called ‘Hard to Swallow.’ The short was selected at Sundance and off the back of that he was commissioned by the UK Film Council to write ‘Wingman’, which was his first full length script. He began with Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” in mind, but finished with something a little more…hmm…shall we say, filthy.
Writer: Mat Kirkby
Details: 112 pages (June 25, 2009 draft)
If I were ranking the Brit List scripts I’ve read so far (about ten), Wingman would probably be at the top, by a hair, over Good Luck Anthony Belcher. The script doesn’t have the high concept marketing-friendly “big idea” Good Luck has, but what it lacks in big ideas, it makes up for in consistency. Whereas Good Luck kind of runs out of steam in the second half, Wingman is just getting started. Surprisingly though, this spec made some very basic mistakes, things that make me wonder if this isn’t a first-time writer. Large chunks of description that could’ve been summarized in a couple of lines litter the digital real estate like hot dog stands at a fat camp. After awhile, I just stopped reading them and went straight to the dialogue, which is where the script shines anyway. It’s not “overly cute and clever” funny. Just pure “stems from the character” funny. And the main two characters here are why Wingman works.
33 year old Simon is Sir Dorksimus Maximus Extraordinaire. He works for a sci-fi magazine, unapologetically sets his ring tone to the X-Files theme, and has more trouble speaking to women than a deaf-mute. He was recently dumped by his long term girlfriend, Claire, for being unable to utter those three essential words: I love you. Now he’s out in the singles game for the first time in ages and he doesn’t have the chops or the know-how to swing it. To make things worse, Simon is one of those people who got so comfortable in his own world, he neglected to keep all his friendships. Now, not only are all his old friends married, but they’re not dropping everything to rush out and help a guy who fell off the friendship radar.
This forces him to make the call he swore he would never make – the one man he knows will reserve him a spot in hell. We’re talking about the one man who will join him in the trenches – Britain’s answer to Vince Vaughn in Swingers: DeClan. DeClan is one nasty SOB. Whereas Vaughn had charm, DeClan is more like a hunter, unapologetic in his pursuit of nailing the next hottie. Tucker Max reads *this* guy’s diary. Unfortunately, the epitome of the heartless classless selfish dickhead-dom is Simon’s only lifeline.
Off the two go, DeClan enlisting Simon in his School of Scoring. But it’s kind of like David Beckham trying to teach Stephen Hawking how to do a corner kick. Simon is so underprepared for all the lying, the scheming, and the cruelty involved in picking up women that he always finds a way to screw it up.
But the screwing it up parts are exactly what we came here for. In fact, pretty much anything where Simon is trying to score a member of the opposite sex is funny. One of my favorite scenes is a take on the famous sequence from The Odd Couple where Declan invites over a couple of women for a night at Simon’s flat (hey! I’m getting a hang of this UK lingo). One of the girls is a clueless Russian model. The other is seemingly Simon’s dream girl. She’s extremely cute, a little bit nerdy, and loves the X-Files just as much Simon! He’s finally found the perfect girl to replace his ex. Except the girl’s love for the X-Files maybe goes a little bit deeper than Simon’s, insomuch as she creates tin foil hats the two must wear so that “the aliens can’t hear what we’re thinking.” While no one’s ever personally made me wear a tin foil hat (though an ex-girlfriend did tell me she’d been abducted by aliens once), just the memories it conjured up of all those hilarious dates that went wrong made Wingman, and Simon’s journey in particular, very identifiable for me.
Wingman isn’t pushing any boundaries so if you’re looking for a new way to row a boat, look somewhere else. There are actually a lot of things in this story that don’t work –most of the subplots and secondary characters aren’t fleshed out and as a result, whenever we’re with them, the story slows to a crawl. But when the script focuses on the interactions and relationship between DeClan and Simon, it’s pretty damn funny, and that’s why I’m going to go ahead and recommend Wingman.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: When you compare Wingman and Good Luck Anthony Belcher, I think there’s a reason Good Luck finished higher on the Brit List, even though the scripts are comparable on a comedic level (this is my opinion of course). Good Luck has the more high-concept premise. In having the better premise, it comes off as a more fully-formed idea, which is easier to market and therefore easier to sell. Wingman is no slouch. The idea is simple enough to fit right into the title, and that should be easy to sell as well. But as much as you’d like to “stay true to yourself” and not “sell out,” the best way in for a new writer is always the high concept idea, especially in comedy. Those are the scripts all the execs and development people and producers and agents and managers are looking for. It’s playing the odds, man.