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American Contessa

Author: Andy Bellin

Genre: Adventure

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A wealthy Bostonian teams up with a French mechanic to race across post-WWII Africa.


ALICE WILSON has just turned 30 and can’t seem to find a husband. She makes a deal with her wealthy father: she will spend a year in Europe, and if she hasn’t found a husband, she will marry whomever he wants. While in Europe, she meets COUNT LORENZO, a racecar driver, and she is smitten until she discovers he is cheating on her. Angered, she teams up with VALERIE SADOUN, a French auto mechanic, in a race across Africa. Pitted against Count Lorenzo and several other driving teams, Alice and Valerie face everything from sandstorms to engine failure to cholera outbreaks on their way to Capetown. Although she loses the race to Count Lorenzo, Alice learns she was wrong about his playboy ways, and the two of them renew their love and are married.


This script tells two stories: the romance between Alice and Lorenzo, and the race across Africa. Unfortunately, neither story begins soon enough. The first act is filled with on-the-nose, expository dialogue, most of which serves only to establish Alice’s motivation to go to Europe. That setup shouldn’t take more than a few pages, but it spends time developing characters we never see again and a complex father-daughter relationship that never pays off.

The romance between Alice and Lorenzo doesn’t ring true. Alice’s feelings turn on a dime, and it’s difficult to believe she’d believe idle gossip about Lorenzo’s many affairs, especially when the gossip comes from a character she hardly knows and has little reason to trust. If fleshed out and made more believable, the romance would add more tension and conflict during the race. The same could be said for the other racers. These teams appear for the first time just as the flag is going down, and they pop up sporadically during the race in moments that should be either tense or poignant. However, because of the lack of development of any of the other characters, the sequences just become tedious.

The story of the race sometimes falls under the category of “truth is stranger than fiction” (notably when the brakes fail and nearly cause Alice and Valerie to drown), but once it gets going, it’s both entertaining and interesting. It definitely needs work, though.

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