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Posts in: May 2009

Bait

Author: Russell Mulcahey

Genre: Disaster/Action

Storyline: 8

Dialogue: 7

Characterization: 6

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Recommend

Logline:

A disparate group of people find themselves trapped in a flooded grocery store after a tsunami, and they’re forced to work together to survive against sharks and a deranged killer.


Synopsis:

Early one morning, on an idyllic Australian beach, a man is suddenly yanked underwater, replaced by a pool of blood and chunks of flesh, which seagulls dip down to eat. Underwater, a shark net running along the beach is revealed to have a gaping hole in it. Three months later, a high-tech, hole-free shark net is nearing completion. TRACY (30s) stands on the beach, waiting impatiently for her son, JIM (15), to finish having fun on the beach. Tracy’s impatience irritates Jim. JOSH (30s), the lifeguard, flirts with Tracy. Then he notices the screws on the lookout’s stilts are falling out, so he decides to go to a nearby supermarket. Tracy and Jim walk to their car. She tries to connect by pointing out that her husband, Jim’s father, left both of them, and they need to stick together. Jim angrily walks away, toward the grocery store. She notices a sweaty, anxious man, SAM, on the street, but doesn’t have time to pay full attention. As she rushes to pursue Jim, Tracy runs into BOBBY, a wheelchair-bound man, knocking him over. He cheerfully jokes as she apologizes and rights him. Meanwhile, JOHN (40s) brings his teenage daughters SARAH and KATIE to the grocery store. The girls are acting obnoxious, taunting each other as the car enters the underground parking garage, passing a sign marking the store’s grand opening.

The MAYOR proudly tours the store. He’s introduced to SUSAN, the young store manager. NAOMI (25), a deaf-mute, tries to sign a question at Susan. ALEX, a stockboy, signs the answer. Susan thanks him. John’s daughters refuse to enter the store with him. Annoyed, John goes in by himself. Inside the pharmacy, Sam waits for something, shifty-eyed. Tracy bursts into the store and finds Jim hanging around with MARTIN (16), a street thug. Tracy yells at Jim and accuses Martin of shoplifting. Just as she’s about to drag him off, they hear a scream. It’s Susan. Sam’s taken her hostage. Tracy suddenly pulls out a radio and calls in the crime—she’s a cop! Sam threatens the shoppers, but he’s disoriented. Susan uses his confusion to kick him in the groin and run away. Sam shoots her in the back. Josh performs rudimentary first aid on Susan while Tracy calls for an ambulance. But the cops will never get there…

A tsunami pounds the beach, flooding the entire town with water. Ocean water and debris floods the underground parking structure and the supermarket. Sarah and Katie hop into the car as it’s lifted around by the torrent of water. Katie gets a head injury, which knocks her out. Inside the supermarket, the customers and employees are forced to make do sitting on top of the shelves, which have created islands among the water. Tracy and Josh try to tend to Susan. Metal gates rumble down, locking them inside the store. It’s an emergency system. John, realizing his kids are out there, suddenly dives into the water. He just barely gets past the gates and into the parking lot. Tracy tries to keep everyone calm. She tells Josh to find painkillers. Martin recommends hydrocodone. John swims to his car and finds Sarah and Katie. Sarah’s panicking because Katie’s unconscious. John tells her he’s going to swim to the exit to see what’s going on, when suddenly he’s ripped away by a creature and killed in front of Sarah.

Tracy asks Alex if there’s another way out of the store. Alex says there’s a service entrance, but it would have closed, too. He suggests that there’s a trip for the gates in the store room. He goes to swim for it when there’s another scream. Sam stands on a shelf with another hostage. Alex finds the trip, but he needs a crow bar to get at it. Inconveniently, Sam’s on the hardware shelf. Tracy begs for a crow bar. Suddenly a liquor bottle smashes Sam in the head—Jim threw it. Josh gets the crow bar. They leave Sam unconscious on the hardware shelf. Jim swims over to a bus that blocks the supermarket’s entrance. Inside, he finds three dead prisoners chained to a rail. He’s stunned and about to leave when TAYLOR and STEVEN, two prisoners who are cuffed but alive, demand that Jim grab the handcuff keys from the dead guard, then they beat him up. Alex and some others swim to the store room and try to pry open the trip device. It’s pretty stuck, so it’ll take time. Josh shouts for everyone to get out of the water. Tracy wonders why. Josh points out something large, moving through the water quickly. Taylor and Steven tie Jim up. He screams for his mother. She shouts for him to not get into the water when she notices he’s in a prison bus. Alex and his helpers get the trip open, just in time to get attacked by the creature in the water. They’re killed.

Everyone cheers at the opening gates, but the bus is completely blocking the exit and unable to move. It slips underwater, trapping Jim with Steven and Taylor. JEFF reaches into the water to grab some flashlights so they can see into the water. Josh warns Jeff about “sea wasps,” the deadliest jellyfish known to man. Martin, taping the claw hammer he intended to steal to the end of a broomstick, reaches down and grabs flashlights. The complicated packaging keeps them watertight, so they work when the survivors turn them on. In the car, Katie wakes up. Sarah tells her they have to stay put. They see JANE (30s) trapped in a nearby car with son TOMMY (7). Outside the car, Jane watches a man get killed by what is clearly a tiger shark. Swimmers trying to make their way through the garage start yelling. Josh, Tracy, and everyone else in the store hears them screaming about sharks. They think they know what they’re up against, until they aim flashlights into the water—there are tons of sharks, babies, but still big enough to kill them.

Realizing nobody will come for them until the morning, Tracy suggests finding dry blankets and food for people. Jim manages to get a small window opened above the water. They toss some food inside. Steven thanks Jim. He admits that he lost his job and his brother, Taylor, convinced him to sell weed, which is why they’re now both in prison. One of the survivors asks why the sharks won’t eat dead bodies. Josh explains that tiger sharks are smart and nasty—unlike other sharks, they don’t eat dead flesh, and they savor their kills. Nobody wants to hear this. Tied up, Sam awakens, laughing. He says he has an idea. The Mayor wants to hear him out, but Tracy refuses. Josh notices a ventilation shaft that they could use to get out. Unfortunately, it’s positioned right over the water. Tracy and Josh tie two beach chairs together with skipping ropes, creating a bridge under the shaft. They knock the shaft open with a broomstick. Martin volunteers to go out the shaft. Everyone admires his bravery, including Tracy. As he crawls into the shaft, he discovers one end is blocked by debris—and the other by a nest of venomous snakes. Martin suddenly falls, crashing into the water. He leaps up again, hanging onto the shaft door. Josh yells for everyone to splash and make noise in the water to distract the sharks from Martin’s area. It doesn’t work—a massive, clearly adult shark leaps up and pulls Martin down under the water. Disappointed, the group tries to sleep.

At dawn, Naomi opens her eyes and realizes the water has risen quite a bit. In the car park, Katie notices the same thing—it’s high enough that it’s coming through the small crack in the window they’ve left for air. Overhead, everyone hears a chopper. They start cheering and yelling at it in relief, but it flies away. Tracy realizes Sam has disappeared from his spot. A shark attacks the car holding Sarah and Katie, drawn by the blood coming from Katie’s head. Josh notices a burst power cable that’s sparking just over the water. Josh thinks they have less than an hour to figure out how to shut the power off before the water rises up to the cable. Susan, semi-conscious, whispers that there’s a service room, inside of which the power can be shut off. Josh manufactures a rudimentary scuba-diving helmet with a long breathing tube and a rope, then covers himself in wire mesh and canned goods so he doesn’t look like a person. Meanwhile, Sarah realizes she and Katie have no choice: they have to get out of the car. Katie panics, but they have no other options. Sarah drags her out of the car and they barely get to the dry roof before a shark attacks. Sarah realizes the sharks are breaking windows now. Jane and Tommy are in danger. Sarah climbs up to a conduit pipe on the ceiling and shimmies over to the car. Katie tosses Sarah an emergency fire axe, which she uses to rip open the roof of Jane’s car. Jane and Tommy crawl out. She thanks them.

Underwater, sharks ignore Josh. He gets to the service room, but his breathing hose is too short. He breaks free of it, pulls the kill switch, then drops the hose. Struggling to find it, he comes free of the rope. Then the sharks find him. Tracy and the others realizes he’s done for when they pull back a loose rope. The store is pitch-black for a moment, then the emergency lights come on, accompanied by strange opera music. Sam has created a disturbing raft from all the dead bodies floating in the water. He announces that his master plan was to explode a bomb, which he’ll now, finally, do. Tracy tries to stop him, but she can’t get to him. She’s also distracted by Jim, who’s trying to get Steven and Taylor out of the bus before himself, to escape the rising water. As Jim climbs along the rope out of the bus, it snaps. Tracy sees the large shark’s fin. She dives underwater and rescues the terrified Jim. She narrowly avoids the shark as she pulls Jim to safety, then shoots Sam in the head just before he can detonate the bomb. The tiger shark jumps up, and Tracy empties her clip into it. The babies are attracted to the fresh blood from Sam. Their motion and violence causes Sam’s body to detonate the bomb. It explodes, but the water moved the bomb, so nobody’s injured, and the explosion moves the bus to create a bridge leading right out of the store. Tracy emerges and looks at the town, which is an epic disaster area. A tiger shark suddenly bursts out of the water, snatching a gull.


Comments:

Bait follows a classic but effective disaster-movie formula, introducing a wide variety of characters, giving them each problems, and using the heightened emotion of the disaster to solve them. It has a few weak spots, but they’re balanced by unending suspense and action. As written, the script merits a recommend.

In addition to setting up all the characters and their interpersonal problems, the first act contains a bravura action sequence with the tsunami. It’s unexpected and well-executed, which will help draw in audiences’ attention. The second act forces the characters to work together, finding common ground in the need to survive, as the writer layers new obstacles and complications constantly. The writer also finds clever uses for common household items. As the second act shifts into the third, the story remains satisfying until the ridiculous, over-the-top return of Sam and his bomb. It’s resolved tidily, but it mars an otherwise well-written, entertaining script.

The writer does a nice job with each character. Although the characters are not the primary focus, each has enough definition to make them empathetic and slightly interesting, even if they’re not particularly complex. The notable exception to this is Sam, who’s a ridiculous distraction even before the tsunami. This script would be near-perfect if Sam didn’t exist at all. He’s a nuisance, but he’s barely in the script, so he doesn’t have the opportunity to completely ruin it.

This script has more than enough action and entertainment value to succeed on its own, but expert direction will help keep the action sequences coherent and the suspense palpable. Convincing special effects will help sell the tsunami and shark attacks. As a minor side-note, Tracy is occasionally referred to in the script as “Todd,” suggesting her gender and name were late changes.

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Father of Invention

Author: Jonathan D. Krane and Trent Cooper

Genre: Comedy

Storyline: 6

Dialogue: 8

Characterization: 6

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

After being released from prison, a disgraced infomercial entrepreneur tries to rebuild his fortune, redeem himself in the eyes of the public, and reconnect with his daughter.


Synopsis:

ROBERT AXLE (50s, resembling a vagrant) is released from prison. A montage transitions between the glamorous life of 1995, when Axle was a wealthy “fabricator” who created items like the “Coffee-Grill” (part coffee pot, part panini press) and the “Mace-Cam” (a mace container with a digital camera to photograph assailants). He starred in infomercials with his daughter, CLAIRE, and lived in a huge mansion that was little more than a shrine to himself. It all went bad when he rushed a “Gripper-Clicker” to market. Designed to allow people to exercise while using their TV remote controls, it had a flaw that eventually resulted in the loss of thumbs and middle fingers. Now, Axle takes the bus to meet his PAROLE OFFICER at a seedy donut shop. The P.O. reviews Axle’s file, marveling at the charge of “Depraved Indifference to Human Life.” He encourages Axle to take a job at FamilyMart, a big-box store whose ex-con rehabilitation program is second to none, and sends Axle off with $120.

Axle visits his wife, LORRAINE, looking for his things. Lorraine tells him that what she didn’t give to charity, she threw in the trash. She introduces Axle to her new husband, JERRY, a forest ranger. Despite Axle’s initial dislike, Jerry’s a nice guy. He drives Axle to a secret storage locker full of his old things. Axle arrives at Claire’s apartment and is mistaken for a hobo by her roommates, PHOEBE (35, angry lesbian) and DONNA (20s, perpetually optimistic). Claire catches sight of him and is disgusted. She goes into the hall to talk to him. Axle asks to move in with her. She refuses. Axle reminds her that he owns the building; Claire reminds him that he lost the building to Lorraine in the divorce. As a consolation prize, she leaves Axle with a pink raincoat to protect him from the elements. Axle goes to a nightclub and tries to turn on the charm with some beautiful women. He strikes out. He recalls a happier moment, back in 1990, when he first got the call that someone wanted to invest in his Coffee-Grill. He shared the excitement with Lorraine and Claire, then 7. In the present, Claire picks up Axle at a homeless shelter and says he can stay with her from one month, at which time he needs to get a real job and move out. She also forbids Axle from interfering in her job, running a Center for Women. Axle agrees.

The next morning, Donna and Phoebe introduce themselves properly. Phoebe instantly dislikes Axle, and Axle instantly dislikes Donna. He tells them about starting at FamilyMart. Phoebe ridicules him, but Axle firmly believes within three years, he’ll be running the company. Donna likes his spirit. At FamilyMart, Axle stares wistfully at his old products, all of which are still sold without the Robert Axle name on them, when his boss TROY COANGELO mocks and berates the former star. Troy informs Axle that ex-cons represent a risk to the company, nothing more, and he’s just waiting for Axle to slip up so he can fire him. While Claire tries to coach a woman through a job interview, Donna Googles Axle and shouts hideous facts about the Gripper-Clicker. She wonders how it managed to chop off two fingers at the same time. That afternoon, Axle tries to impress Claire by hanging a large painting that’s been leaning against the wall. Claire’s infuriated—she didn’t want it hung, but now it has to stay up to block the hole in the wall. Axle realizes Donna is hiding in her room because her father is afraid of her being alone with criminals. Later, Axle tries to repair his painting-hanging mistake, but he ends up falling off the ladder and knocking fish food into Phoebe’s aquarium. In his frantic attempt to scoop the food out, one of the fish ends up on the floor. Phoebe gives him two options: face or nuts. Axle picks “face,” so Phoebe punches him in the groin.

Axle, distracted from his mopping duties, marvels at all the combined products available these days: tongue-dissolving strips, upside-down ketchup bottles. Axle pitches the idea for a novel new cell phone, which a customer informs him is merely a Blackberry. He doesn’t notice a little old lady walking toward the wet floor. Troy, after scolding Axle, tries to run and help the old lady. He ends up slipping, breaking his leg. He first Axle. Depressed, Axle sits in a park, trying to find inspiration. Instead, children ridicule him and a frightened woman attacks him with a Mace-Cam. Axle goes home, takes a long look at himself in the mirror, and decides to cut his hair and shave. Phoebe plays Guitar Hero, taking it very seriously. Axle mocks the fact that it’s just a plastic guitar. Phoebe challenges him—if she wins, she’ll dress him in something fashionable. Axle agrees—if he wins, she and Donna move out for the rest of the month. Meanwhile, Claire takes laundry to Lorraine’s. Discussing Axle, Claire thinks Lorraine is jealous that he chose to stay with Claire. Trying to change the subject, Lorraine offers to write Claire a donation check for her Center. Claire knows Lorraine is broke and won’t accept the money. Lorraine’s so ashamed, she locks herself in a closet. Claire and Jerry are forced to coax her out by holding a charity fundraiser. Back at the apartment, Axle beats Phoebe. She challenges him to two out of three, but he forfeits. The next day, Axle insists on tagging along when Claire rides her bike to get coffee. He follows her on Donna’s childhood bike. He tries to engage her in conversation and learn more about her, but Claire’s aloof. After awhile, Claire softens and reminisces about good times from her childhood.

Phoebe and Axle go to a thrift store. She picks out some new clothes for him, but Axle thinks they make him look like a lesbian. Phoebe prefers “gender neutral,” but that doesn’t make Axle feel better. On their way back to the apartment, a frantic mother holds an empty leash. She tells them she’s lost her son. Axle’s baffled that she’d lead her son on a leash. Phoebe finds the boy around the corner, watching TV on an iPod. Axle is struck with inspiration. He waits for STEVEN LESLIE, his former business partner, to arrive for work, and pitches his idea: a “wireless leash” for parents that’s marketed to kids, by putting a GPS into a super-cool electronic gadget. Kids will drool over it, and parents will shell out the money for security. Leslie thinks it’s a great idea and offers Axle money for it. Axle doesn’t want money; he wants their partnership back. Leslie tells him that’d kill their business. Axle storms out, saying he’ll find investors.

Axle calls up all sorts of investors, but they all turn him down based solely on the name. Eventually, Axle starts using Troy Coangelo’s name. He manages to get a meeting, on the condition that he bring a working prototype. Back at FamilyMart, Troy is high on painkillers when Claire approaches, looking for Axle. She has an invitation to the fundraiser. Troy tells Claire he fired Axle. Claire insults Troy, then leaves. Troy is smitten. Axle goes to a retirement home and meets with SAM (80s), formerly his top engineer, now a little senile. He pitches the idea, and Sam says he can get a working prototype for $5000. Axle pitches the idea again, to shallow loan officer NEIL. Neil thinks it’s a great idea, and $5000 is extremely cheap for a prototype. Although lending money to an ex-con is risky, Neil thinks the reward is worth it. He goes to ask his boss. Axle watches him, notices the boss’s thumb and middle finger are missing. He knows he’s sunk.

Axle goes to a national forest to ask Jerry for the $5000. Jerry reluctantly admits that he and Lorraine are strapped. Axle can’t believe they could spend $362 million in 11 years. Jerry tells Axle he’d be surprised. Jerry says most of it goes to philanthropy, and they have a fundraiser tonight. Axle ridicules the notion of philanthropy but is stricken with guilt when Jerry says it’s for Claire. Axle flashes back to buying Claire a pony for her birthday in 1995. Axle’s so preoccupied with work, he doesn’t even pay attention to the color of the horse. In the present, Claire schmoozes at her black-tie event, held at an aquarium. Axle sneaks into the fundraiser and gives a rousing speech attempting to compare aquatic life to women. The wealthy patrons snicker at him, and Axle leaves in shame. Claire follows him outside, proud of him. Axle refuses to go back inside. The next morning, Axle meets with his P.O. He knows Troy fired Axle from FamilyMart and warns Axle that most criminals who fail to find steady employment end up back in prison. Axle returns to the apartment and discovers Guitar Hero is gone. He alerts Phoebe, who realizes her ex-husband stole most of her electronics. She drags Axle with her to retrieve them. Claire goes to the bank to deposit the fundraiser earnings. It’s a grand total of $37,520—not much. Adding insult to injury, Lorraine’s $25,000 bounces. Phoebe rolls up on her ex’s house. Three men—one of them the ex-husband—wait inside the house. She tells Axle to go inside while she waits. Axle argues with her. Eventually, they go in together. It goes smoothly until they get outside—her husband and his friends are waiting. Phoebe and Axle fight with them, but they manage to get away with Phoebe’s stuff. The intensity causes Axle and Phoebe to kiss.

Later, Claire comes home to find Axle and Phoebe all smiles. She’s jealous of their sudden closeness. Troy shows up at Claire’s apartment, ostensibly to bring Axle’s meager check but actually to flirt with Claire. Claire asks Troy out, just as Donna leaves to go to Lorraine’s for the evening. Now Claire’s pissed. She insists all of them—including Troy—go with Donna. Donna says her parents are divorcing, which is why Lorraine invited her—alone. Claire is apologetic, but this news makes her more insistent that they all go. At the mansion, Axle slips away while the others play a board game. He calls Sam and asks if the prototype is finished. It is. Axle returns to the game, but he and Claire get into an argument. She unloads her pent-up aggression—about him belittling her, forcing her to become his infomercial sidekick. Axle leaves, enraged. Claire is racked with guilt immediately. As Axle waits for a cab to pick him up, he flashes back to 1990. After a failed pitch meeting, young Claire tries to cheer Axle up by giving him a drawing of a father and daughter holding hands. Axle tells her that he has to get a real job. Claire tells him he has a real job—he’s a fabricator. Axle is inspired by her words. They hug. In the present, Axle rides Donna’s bike to a Mailboxes, Etc., where he picks up a mystery envelope. He goes to the nursing home, and Sam shows him the prototype—he has three different styles, all amazing. The next day, Axle tries to blackmail Troy for firing him without cause. He tells Troy he’ll forget about it if Troy lets him in after-hours so he can use the electronics in the FamilyMart repair center. Troy threatens to call Axle’s P.O.

In the parking lot, Troy has a change of heart. FamilyMart has been screwing him for years, and nobody even cares about his broken leg. Troy agrees to meet Axle at midnight. Axle goes back to the apartment, where Phoebe asks about the kiss, and why Axle felt her up, and more importantly, how her breasts felt. Axle praises Phoebe’s intellect and wit, then adds her breasts felt nice. Axle uses Troy’s tools to perfect Sam’s good-but-untested designs. Axle asks Troy to blow off work tomorrow to pick the idea on Axle’s behalf. Troy says that’s not such a good idea—he gets nervous trying to sell things to people. Axle builds Troy’s confidence until he agrees. Late at night, Axle arrives back at the apartment to find Claire waiting for him. She’s bought a vintage sport coat for him to wear at his pitch. Axle apologizes for bombing at his fundraiser. Claire says they would have never made enough to keep the Center open. They reminisce again. Axle tries to hug Claire, but she’s “not really a hugger.”

The next morning, Axle gives Troy a pep talk but realizes he’s completely out of it. He took a few Xanax on top of his pain pills. Troy tries to pitch to MATT JAMES, head of the venture capital firm, but it’s a disaster. Fortunately, Matt recognizes Axle—and, despite the Gripper-Clicker incident, sort of worships him. Matt confesses that Steven Leslie pitched the exact same idea, but he realizes Leslie stole it from Axle. Axle convinces Matt to take a gamble on the original, that they can bring it to market before Leslie. He comes back to the apartment in the mood to celebrate. He has a six-figure advance and is on top of the world. Phoebe, Donna, and Claire are not: “someone” got a credit card in Donna’s name and ran up $5000. The card was sent to the Mailboxes Etc. around the corner. Pissed, Claire kicks Axle out.

Months later, Axle is staying at a luxury hotel, driving a Mercedes, and supervising the design and test-marketing of the “Watchdawg” as they prepare for launch. Claire works at the neighborhood coffee shop. Lorraine and Jerry have sold their mansion and announce plans to retire to Florida. They sell the apartment building to Claire for $1. They extend an invitation, on Axle’s behalf, to the Watchdawg launch. Claire isn’t interested. Axle asks Phoebe to give a small gift box to Claire. Phoebe refuses. Angry, Axle throws the gift in the trash on his way out. Phoebe has a change of heart, pulling the gift out of the trash. She gives it to Claire, who refuses to open it and chastises Phoebe for the “kissing” incident. Phoebe tells Claire that this isn’t about Phoebe and Axle—it’s about Claire and Axle. Claire recalls the incident in 1990 where she cheered her father up after his failed pitch meeting. Picking up where the first flashback left off, Steven Leslie happens to walk by and catches sight of the prototype Coffee-Grill. He’s impressed. In the present, Claire opens the gift. It’s the drawing she made for him in 1990.

The Watchdawg crew prepares for launch. Axle gives a stirring speech to a packed audience—with a streaming Internet simulcast—about what the Watchdawg is. It’s more than a gadget—it’s a way for parents and kids to connect in a world where the disconnect between children and adults seems to grow every day. Claire wells up in tears. As the speech concludes, Axle steps off the stage and walks victoriously off the aisle. He turns himself in for credit card fraud and identity theft, but his P.O. speaks on his behalf, so the judge sentence Axle to 12 months of house arrest—except he doesn’t have a house. Claire’s seated at Axle’s defense table. She announces he’ll stay with her. On their way to the apartment, Claire says she’s reopening the Center, on a smaller scale, and using the apartment building as headquarters. Also, she received a bunch of phone calls from Matt, who desperately wants to continue working with Axle. At the apartment, Axle apologizes to Donna. Phoebe gives Axle the “face or nuts” option. Axle tries to block both, so Phoebe kisses him. Troy stirs on the couch. Claire has decided she’ll date him if he kicks his pill habit. The whole group plays board games together, having fun.


Comments:

At its core, Father of Invention attempts to tell the story of a fractured father-daughter relationship. When it’s telling that story, it succeeds spectacularly well. Unfortunately, the writers get sidetracked with too many extraneous characters, causing it to lose focus on what works in the story. As written, it merits a pass.

Axle and Claire are fantastic characters—fully developed, engaging, and funny. If the script focused on them 100% of the time, it would be great. Every supporting character is weakly defined and distracting. Donna and Phoebe mostly serve as the generic “angel and devil” perched on Claire’s shoulders, Lorraine is a cliché-ridden caricature of a rich divorcée, and Troy serves no purpose after firing Axle from FamilyMart. The writers try hard to make each of these characters essential to the story, but it always feels forced and artificial instead of a natural, interesting progression.

The main storyline is rock-solid. Axle’s fall from grace, release from prison, and attempts to “reform” in the first act are consistently hilarious. The second act moves into weightier territory, as Axle tries to reconnect with Claire semi-successfully. The writers layer enough obstacles and complications to keep the story interesting, and Axle’s redemption in the third act is stirring and heartwarming. However, the writers shoehorn subplots revolving around Donna, Phoebe, Lorraine, and Troy that are not nearly as successful. These ultimately overwhelm the main story, ruining what could have been a great script.

It’s possible that the right actors in each role can make the supporting players feel like more than distractions. Also, with judicious editing, the unnecessary subplots may not overshadow the main story. However, without major work, this script will remain a pass.

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I’m with Cancer (a.k.a., 50/50)

Author: Will Reiser

Genre: Comedy

Storyline: 8

Dialogue: 8

Characterization: 7

Writer’s Potential: 8

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A young radio producer’s life turns upside down when he’s diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.


Synopsis:

ADAM ROSEN (25, cheerful yet cynical) goes to the hospital for a physical, where he’s treated horribly by an apathetic receptionist and forced to be a human guinea pig to an audience of medical students. A nurse forces him to fill an enormous jar with urine; after enduring the time-consuming tedium of an X-ray and an MRI, Adam’s ready to fill that jar. The next morning, Adam’s loud, obnoxious alarm clock awakens him and his girlfriend, RACHAEL. Adam keeps pushing random buttons in an attempt to turn it off, but all it does is change the noises or make it louder. Since both of them are wide awake, Adam asks Rachael if she’ll be staying over again tonight. She says she wants to check out some art gallery oepnings, but maybe. As Adam showers, he discovers his shampoo bottle is empty. He hesitates, then uses some of Rachel’s girly shampoo. Hesitating again, Adam uses her body wash. Adam’s best friend, SETH (25), picks Adam up for work and comments on his feminine smell. Waiting in line at a coffee shop, Adam and Seth discuss Adam’s relationship with Rachael. Seth is alarmed to learn that, although they’ve only been dating for four months, they only have sex once every three weeks. He’s even more alarmed that she stays over almost every night, yet won’t move in and won’t have sex. Adam doesn’t want to take advice from Seth, who’s never had an actual, long-term relationship, but that doesn’t stop Seth from encouraging Adam to dump Rachael and find someone better.

Adam and Seth arrive at National Public Radio, where they both work as segment producers. Their creepy boss, PHIL (60), comments on Adam’s scent and gets a little too intimate in smelling him. Phil asks how their current piece is coming along. Adam goes into a lot of unnecessary details that suggest it’s going badly, until Seth cuts him off by telling Phil they’re pretty much done. Phil’s glad, because they need it to air tonight. Taking the job very seriously, Adam attempts to call someone for an interview. The person on the other end thinks Adam is asking for donations. Meanwhile, Seth laughs and makes obnoxious, vaguely racist jokes to whoever he’s interviewing. After work, Adam goes back to the hospital to hear his results. DR. ROSS ignores Adam as he examines the MRI results, spewing medical jargon into a Dictaphone. Ross asks Adam if he has any questions. Adam asks for clarification on everything Ross says. Ross spells it out in laymen’s terms: Adam has a malignant growth on his spinal column that’s the result of a rare genetic mutation. Ross is glad they caught it before it metastasized and sets Adam up for a four-month chemotherapy regimen. Adam starts to panic, so Ross recommends a social worker to help Adam work through this difficult time. Adam Googles his form of cancer. The survival rate, even with treatment, does not look good. Adam comes home and breaks the news to Rachael by asking if she’s ever seen the movie Beaches. At first, Rachael doesn’t get it, but then she puts it together and is appropriately horrified. Rachael makes Adam’s problem mostly about her—how she’s going to get through this, how it’s bad timing, etc. Adam adds insult to injury when he reminds Rachael that his parents are coming for dinner.

EDITH and ART arrive for dinner. Edith is overbearing; Art, who suffered a stroke, is a bit out of touch with reality. After sitting down to dinner, Adam tries to break the news to Edith and Art by asking if they’ve seen Terms of Endearment. Rachael tells Adam just to come out with it. Adam tells them he has cancer. Art has no reaction, but Edith freaks out and immediately begins brewing green tea, because she heard it reduces the chances of getting cancer. Adam says it’s a little late for that, so Edith opens up her fanny pack and offers Art an array of over-the-counter painkillers and prescription antidepressants. She insists on moving in, and Adam tries to forbid it but fails. Rachael manages to calm Edith down enough to make her realize that Rachael will take care of Adam. Edith tells Adam he doesn’t deserve Rachael.

The next morning, at the coffee shop, Adam is too impatient to tolerate the long line. Seth asks what his problem is, so Adam tells him about the cancer. At first, Seth doesn’t believe him, but after that, he’s surprisingly compassionate. He also adds that now is the time for Adam to live it up. Rachael drives Adam to the hospital, where he meets with KATIE MacRAE (24), the inexperienced psychologist who will act as Adam’s social worker. Adam’s surprised by her youth, and even more surprised when Katie tells him he’s her first patient and that their sessions will comprise most of her doctoral dissertation. Katie urges Adam to stop thinking of the cancer as a burden and start thinking of it as a sign that his body needs physical and emotional adjustment. She tells Adam to close his eyes and find an internal place where he can escape the cancer. Adam comes home to find Rachael has bought him a shih tzu. Adam doesn’t want a dog, but Rachael insists they help the healing process. Adam thinks of a dozen reasons why owning a dog won’t help, but it’s clear that Rachael is the one who wants the dog, so Adam reluctantly agrees to keep it.

Adam and Rachael go to NPR for Adam’s chemotherapy “going-away” party. Everyone there has a different home remedy for cancer. Seth tries to console the attractive women who are upset by Adam’s diagnosis. On the way home, Adam’s grumpy from the brutal experience of the party. Rachael finds his pouting adorable. They go home and start fooling around when the dog starts whimpering. Adam tries to ignore her, but Rachael can’t. She forces Adam to take the dog for a walk. Adam impatiently walks the dog, angry that she won’t stop and do her business. When he gets back, Adam asks Rachael to move in. She agrees, then falls alseep before they can have sex. Adam goes to the synagogue with Edith and Art and is horrified and ashamed that Edith uses Adam’s cancer to get preferencial treatment. After the service, Adam talks to his RABBI about the cancer. The Rabbi knows Adam is a poor Jew, but he offers himself in case Adam has any questions, concerns, or desire to reconnect with the Torah.

Adam goes in for his first chemo treatment. He’s seated in a room with a chemo drip, along with other cancer patients, most of them twice to three times his age. Adam watches a man, out of touch with reality, barking obscenities at the wall. MITCH (80) tells Adam not to worry about the man. He’s always like that. ALAN (84) offers Adam a hit of medical marijuana. Mitch and Alan offer two different perspectives on the cancer: Mitch, despite his advanced age, is eternally optimistic, but Alan is perpetually negative. Adam takes a hit from Alan’s one-hitter and falls asleep. He dreams of going to an amusement park, where carnies refuse to let him on rides, pointing to a sign that says “No Cancer.” Adam denies having cancer, but they point to his t-shirt, which says “I’m with Cancer.” He’s attached by an umbilical cord to a giant bald fat man whose shirt is labeled “Cancer.” The cancer man reaches toward Adam and swallows him whole.

Adam visits Katie. He feels horribly both physically and emotionally. He lashes out at Katie, then apologizes, realizing she just wants to help and he should do what she says in order to feel better. Katie gives him a list of books to buy. Adam goes to the bookstore with Seth to pick them out. Seth doesn’t like the depressing subject matter and pulls out a book on Mardi Gras, suggesting the two of them go while Adam still can. Adam refuses. Seth takes his cancer books and uses them to hit on a good-looking sales clerk. Adam goes with Seth to a creepy, Norman Rockwell painting version of a doctor’s office, where Seth fakes poor vision in order to get a prescription for medical marijuana. Back at Adam’s house, they get high. Rachael has moved in all of her boxes but hasn’t unpacked. She catches Adam and Seth getting high and is angry. She gets angrier when she discovers Adam bought a huge, plasma TV and hung it where Rachael planned to hang one of her paintings. She angrily takes the dog for a walk. Adam downplays her behavior, but Seth calls it like he sees it: she’s being incredibly selfish. He loses credibility by twisting it back into a plea to go to Mardi Gras. Adam tells Katie that, after reading the books she recommended, he has realized he’s emotionally blocked. She sends Adam to “laughter therapy” to help. Seth goes with him, but they both find the experience odd and off-putting.

At one of his chemo sessions, Mitch asks why he’s never seen Adam’s girlfriend. Adam says hospitals freak her out. Mitch encourages Adam to ask her to come with him for moral support. He says his wife, to whom he’s been married for 40 years, is the only reason he wants to stay alive. Alan, on the other hand, thinks women are nothing but trouble—they’re selfish and exist to make men miserable. After his treatment, Adam waits for Rachael to pick him up. When she doesn’t, he calls her cell phone repeatedly, but it’s always VoiceMail. Eventually, Katie passes Adam in her car. She offers him a ride home. She drives a small car that’s loaded with clutter. Halfway home, Adam can’t take it anymore. He forces her to pull over next to a Dumpster so he can clean out the car. Katie finds this amusing and endearing. She asks why Adam doesn’t have a license. He says that during his test, he backed his mom’s car into a wildlife sanctuary. Adam offers Katie the chance to come inside for a drink. Katie’s uneasy, but she goes. They play video games, but they’re too complicated for Adam. Adam pines for the simpler days of playing Duck Hunt with his dad. Adam makes wheatgrass shots, which Katie insists will be healthy and make him feel better. They both down the shots, and Katie spits hers out all over Adam in disgust. As she wipes his face off, Rachael comes home. She’s jealous until Adam explains that Katie dropped him off because Rachael forgot to pick him up. Katie leaves, and Adam and Rachael get into a fight. Rachael tries to make Adam see the difficulty she’s having with all of this, so Adam backs down. They attempt to have sex, but the chemo has affected Adam’s virility.

Adam and Mitch attend Alan’s funeral. Adam has a dream that heaven is a Boca Raton retirement community with a frozen yogurt stand. The next day, he visits his Rabbi to ask about the afterlife. The Rabbi has no helpful answers for him, so Adam goes to Katie with the same questions. Now convinced that he’s going to die, and that there is no afterlife, he wonders what’s the point in carrying on. When Katie tries to analyze him directly out of a textbook, Adam unloads on her, accusing her of incompetence before telling her he can’t do this anymore and leaving. Adam gets annoyed with the amount of hair he’s losing. Rachael is less than sympathetic, concentrating more on whether or not she’s getting fat. Depressed, alone, and unhinged, Adam tries to watch TV. He sees a CNN report on the same story he was working on earlier for NPR and makes the decision to try to go back to work. Gaunt, pale, and bald, he looks horrible. Phil tries to be compassionate, but he refuses to let Adam come back to work, for the sake of employee morale.

Adam waits at home for Rachael to pick him up and take him to his post-chemo exam. She doesn’t show up. He calls, gets VoiceMail. He calls Seth, gets VoiceMail. With no other option, he calls his parents. Edith is obnoxiously overbearing, to the extent that Adam unloads on her. Edith gives as good as she gets, though, and she makes Adam understand that yes, she’s a little overbearing, but it’s only because she doesn’t want to lose Adam the same way she has Art. She tearfully confesses that, though she still loves him, Art is no longer the man she married. Adam is all she has left. Dr. Ross comes in with the results: the cancer did not respond to the chemo, so they must operate. Adam reminds Ross that surgery wasn’t an option. Ross says they’re left with no choice. It’s an incredibly risky procedure with a low success rate, but if he doesn’t have the surgery as soon as possible, the cancer will metastasize and kill him. Ross warns that there’s a chance that, even if the surgery succeeds, he’ll never walk again. Adam looks on the bright side: he’ll be able to get handicap parking.

Seth walks past an art gallery and sees Rachael inside, kissing another man. He snaps a photo with his cell phone. Adam comes home from his appointment to find Rachel in a great mood. She announces she’s having a girls’ night out. She gets a text message, which she insists is from a girlfriend. Adam doesn’t believe her, so when she’s distracted, he checks her phone’s message log and finds all the messages are from a man named James, and they clearly suggest she’s cheating. Despite this, Rachael insists he’s just a fellow artist working on a project with her. Adam yells at her for missing the most important appointment of his life to gallivant around with her “art partner.” Rachael tries to change the subject to his results, but Adam demands to know if she’s cheating. She denies it again, when Seth shows up with his cell phone photo. Adam throws her out, pointing out how convenient it was that Rachael never bothered to unpack.

That night, Adam and Seth go out drinking. On the way home, Adam insists on driving, because Seth is much drunker than Adam is. Seth doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but Adam tells him this might be his last chance. He gets out on the road and starts driving the wrong way on a one-way street, terrifying Seth. Adam suddenly stops the car and throws Seth out. Seth reminds Adam that it’s his car, but Adam locks him out. He calls Katie at home, apologizes, and tells her how terrified she is. Then, he passes out from all the alcohol. Later that night, Adam takes Seth to Seth’s apartment. Adam drops the barely-conscious Seth into bed, then goes into Seth’s disgusting bathroom. He starts cleaning up when he discovers a book called Coping with Your Loved One’s Cancer, dog-eared and loaded with bookmarks. He’s touched.

Adam gets a call from his parents’ estate lawyer, tactfully suggesting that Adam may need to make certain preparations. Adam and Seth go coffin shopping, then pick out a burial plot. Adam goes in for his surgery. He’s accompanied by Edith and Art. Katie shows up and asks Adam how he’s doing. Adam is terrified. The anesthesiologist comes to put Adam under. Adam asks if Katie will be there when he wakes up. She has no plans to leave. While they perform surgery, the doctors discuss who Sir Francis Drake was—a pirate or a buccaneer. After, DR. LAMB, the surgeon explains that the surgery was successful in removing the tumor, but Adam suffered nerve damage and will require physical therapy in order to walk again. Some time later, Mitch’s widow, MARGARET, comes to Adam’s house. Wheelchair-bound Adam has invited her to a dinner party with Katie, Seth, Edith, and Art. Adam smiles for the first time since his diagnosis.


Comments:

I’m with Cancer manages the difficult task of making a story about a cancer patient with a poor prognosis hilarious. Although it’s consistently funny and has an engaging (but somewhat meandering) plot, the script is marred by some stereotypical characters. However, it’s well-written enough to merit a consider.

Adam’s character is extremely well-written. His transition from cheery cynic to unbearably depressed is well-paced and effectively underscores the plot as his situation grows increasingly dire. At first, Seth and Edith seem like stock characters (“horny best friend,” “overbearing mother”), but the writer fills them both with unexpected dimension. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the two love interests who drive the script’s romantic subplot. Rachael’s self-absorbed behavior goes so far over the top, it strains believability, and the writer never takes the time to really dig into the character and make audiences understand the root cause of her selfishness. Similarly, Adam’s conversations with Katie reveal a lot about him but almost nothing about her. This makes her a good psychologist, but it doesn’t make her a compelling love interest.

Despite the character problems, the plot is solid. The two major storylines—Adam’s cancer treatment and the collapse of his relationship with Rachael—build palpable tension during the first and second acts, making Adam’s breakdown in the third act dramatic and empathetic. Although the writer is unafraid to explore the drama and potential tragedy of the story, the comedy never lets up. He does a great job of finding the humor in dire situations, which makes the overall story more palatable than a bleak drama.

The script’s funny, well-written storyline might be enough for audiences to forgive the poorly developed love interests. Maybe the actresses playing those roles can bring some subtle depth that isn’t on the page. Still, it would benefit from just one more draft to really make Rachael and Katie solid and believable.

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Medallion

Author: David Guggenheim

Genre: Action/Thriller

Storyline: 3

Dialogue: 5

Characterization: 3

Writer’s Potential: 3

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

Just released from prison, a professional thief must elude police as he searches New York City for his daughter, who’s being held hostage in a taxi.


Synopsis:

A mysterious passenger, soon revealed as EVAN KIEFER, slips into a Manhattan taxi, medallion #5K65. Kiefer makes polite conversation, in Arabic, with the Egyptian driver. The driver explains his family remains in Cairo until he can afford to send for them. The driver stops to drop Evan off on an empty, dark street. Kiefer kills the driver, stuffs it in the trunk, and gets behind the wheel. Meanwhile, WILL MONTGOMERY (40s, worn out) is released from prison after 10 years. He’s picked up by FBI Special Agent HARLAN FOX (55, black, seasoned) and his young partner, JACOBS. Harlan explains to Jacobs that Montgomery was one of the world’s best thieves until someone tipped them off to his last job, a bank heist. Harlan elaborates about the myth that Montgomery actually got $10 million out of the bank and has it stashed somewhere. Montgomery says he’s considering retirement. They drive him to an expensive apartment off of Central Park, where Montgomery greets his 14-year-old daughter, ALISON, who has lived with her aunt and uncle since he went to prison. Alison has little respect for Montgomery and is not excited about the reunion. Montgomery follows her downstairs, watches her awkwardly hail a cab. Montgomery helps her. She gets into a cab—driven by Kiefer.

RILEY SIMMS (30s, attractive) unclogs a toilet at a dive bar when Montgomery comes to see her. She’s thrilled that he got out and is shocked that she’d buy a cop bar. Riley finds it amusing to overcharge cops for watered-down drinks. Montgomery asks if she’s spoken to any of their former partners in crime since the bank job gone bad. She says one of them, Mercer, went MIA years ago. The other, Jonah Cross, disappeared after the bank job. Riley offers to let Montgomery stay with her. Another FBI car—this one driven by PATTERSON and BRODERICK—waits for Montgomery outside the bar. Montgomery greets them sarcastically and asks them to drive him to Riley’s SoHo loft. As soon as he enters the loft, a call comes through on Riley’s answering machine: it’s the voice of JONAH CROSS, looking for Montgomery. Jonah says he wants the $10 million, and when Montgomery denies its existence, Jonah lets Montgomery know that the cab that picked up Alison was arranged by Jonah, and she will die if he doesn’t bring Jonah the money in an hour. Stalling for time, Montgomery says he actually has $20 million, but it’s upstate and will take him six hours to get. Jonah accepts these terms. Outside, Montgomery finds a cell phone in an envelope. It’s been rigged to only accept calls from Jonah. Jonah tells him they’ll use it to arrange a meet in six hours and that it has a GPS to track Montgomery and make sure he doesn’t pull a fast one. Montgomery immediately uses Riley’s phone to call 911 and report a false fire. Patterson and Broderick, parked in front of a hydrant, are forced to abandon their post. Montgomery sneaks away from the apartment.

Montgomery pulls the GPS chip out of the phone, takes it to Grand Central Station, and puts it on a random train. Meanwhile, Alison’s legs are chained in the back of a cab, her mouth and wrists duct taped. She tries to pound the trunk and grunt, but loud heavy metal and traffic block the sound. Patterson and Broderick report to Harlan that Montgomery got away. Harlan is pissed until Montgomery shows up at the field office. He tells Harlan everything, but Harlan thinks he’s crying wolf. Jonah Cross died nine months ago. He has some more agents, WHITAKER and SHAW, escort Montgomery to a meeting with his parole officer. Jacobs asks Harlan if Montgomery might be telling the truth. Harlan thinks he’s plotting something. He calls for a wiretap on Riley Simms’s phone. In the cab, Alison rubs her wrists against a shard of metal until the tape snaps. Then she pulls the tape off her mouth. Alison plays with the wires, illuminating the cab’s “On Duty” sign. A LAWYER gets into the cab. Alison starts screaming, but the lawyer can’t hear her. He’s distracted talking on his phone. She tries to pound the backseat, but he doesn’t feel anything. Eventually, she claws her hand through the seat, but she’s too late—the Lawyer exits the cab just as she wriggles her hand out. Kiefer flips off the “On Duty” sign.

Montgomery has an interview with his parole officer. Montgomery subtly tips over the P.O.’s coffee, spilling it all over his pants. The P.O. excuses himself to get cleaned up. Montgomery sneaks a peek at his computer, looking up Jonah Cross. Nothing. Next: Donald Mercer. It has his mugshot, current address, and a note that he’s an informant. Montgomery runs off, bribing an NYU student for his school jacket so he can elude Whitaker and Shaw. Harlan learns that Montgomery looked up Mercer in the parole database and has cars sent there. Montgomery goes to DONALD MERCER’s apartment. After getting into a fight about Mercer’s reasons for tipping off Montgomery’s bank job, Montgomery admits he just needs to know where Jonah is. Mercer doesn’t have a clue. Eventually, Montgomery realizes Mercer is stalling. He sees the FBI sedans surrounding them. Patterson and Broderick arrest him for violating his parole. They cuff him and ride away with him. The cell phone Jonah gave Montgomery rings. Montgomery dislocates his thumb to wiggle his hands out of the cuffs. He beats on Patterson and Broderick, making them lose control of the car. He flees the scene, taking Patterson’s gun and calling 911 to report their injuries.

Montgomery picks up Jonah’s phone. Jonah reminds him that the clock is ticking. Montgomery notices a cab with the same “Drivers Wanted” sticker on the cab he sent Alison on. He “cabjacks” the driver, taking his cab. He finds the garage the taxi came from and heads there. Meanwhile, Alison finds the wires controlling the brakes. She tries to send a Morse Code message, but the only thing she accomplishes is Kiefer getting pulled over by cops who don’t notice the message. They also don’t notice her screaming or pounding on the trunk, and they let Kiefer off with a warning. Realizing Alison is up to something, Kiefer chloroforms her. Montgomery introduces himself to BRODSKY, saying he’s looking for specific cab from this garage. He asks Brodsky if anything unusual has happened with any cabs. Brodsky says one driver never returned at the end of his shift. He gives Montgomery the cab number and uses a GPS tracker to locate it—it’s parked in Chinatown. The driver Montgomery cabjacked shows up and recognizes him. Montgomery flees in the cab, but Brodsky calls it in. Harlan dispatches agents and air support. A chopper finds the cab, so Montgomery has little choice but to drive like a maniac, back into Manhattan. Both NYPD and Harlan and Jacobs are on Montgomery’s tail. With some innovative driving, Montgomery causes an NYPD cruiser to crash into Harlan and Jacobs. The chopper loses sight of him amid the skyscrapers. Montgomery calls the taxi commission and has them track the cab, which is now moving. He catches up to it—and discovers a teenager driving it. The teen tells Montgomery that a guy paid him to drive it around for the rest of the afternoon.

After being treated for the minor injuries they sustained in the accident, Harlan and Jacobs realizes Montgomery was telling the truth, now that they know he’s been eluding cops and causing trouble just to find one single cab. They go back to the luxury apartment where Alison’s aunt and uncle live. It dawns on Harlan that the $10 million Montgomery stole really doesn’t exist—it’s been spent on, among other things, the apartment, and on Alison’s care. With nowhere to turn, Montgomery calls Riley. Realizing the FBI are listening, they carry on a discussion in French, making plans to meet. Riley drives away, but Whitaker and Shaw can’t pursue—she’s slashed their tires. Montgomery and Riley meet up in Central Park. He tells her to get the crew back together, because they’re going to rob the bank. They have no other choice, and Montgomery is confident his plan would have worked if they could have executed it to completion. Riley says she can’t round anyone up to help, so they decide to go it alone.

Harlan and Jacobs dig into the finances of Alison’s aunt and uncle. It confirms their suspicions about where the $10 million goes, but it obviously follows that Montgomery can’t pay them. They consider what Montgomery could possibly do to pay them off. Posing as members of the FDIC, Montgomery and Riley secretly records the bank manager. They taser him, then use the recording to gain voice-activated access to the vault. They get inside the vault, but Harlan and Jacobs are hot on their trail. Montgomery calls Jonah to tell him he has the money. Jonah asks him to hand the phone to Riley, whom Montgomery realizes is now aiming a gun at him. Jonah tells Riley to kill Montgomery, and he’ll have Kiefer take care of Alison. Montgomery doesn’t have much time to feel betrayed—Harlan discovers the unconscious bank manager and sounds the alarm. The distraction allows Montgomery to get the drop on Riley. They fight for the gun, and it goes off. Riley is the one who is shot and killed. Montgomery leaves without taking a dime. He steals Riley’s SUV and discovers a parking pass for a warehouse on the docks. He calls Harlan and tells him exactly where he’ll be. Kiefer arrives in the warehouse with Alison. Jonah tells him to torch the cab, with Alison in it. Montgomery makes short work of Jonah’s goons. Jonah struggles to strangle Montgomery as he orders Kiefer to set the cab ablaze. An FBI chopper descends, blinding everyone but Montgomery, who expects it. He grabs a gun and shoots blindly as he dives into the cab. He drives it straight out of the warehouse and into the river. Underwater, he struggles to pull Alison from the trunk. The FBI raid the warehouse. Harlan apologizes to Montgomery. Alison asks if she can go home with her father.


Comments:

Medallion is fast-paced and contains no shortage of action, but it mines every available cliché in constructing a weak story that offers little satisfaction. As written, it merits a pass.

The first act offers promise that the screenplay never exploits. After going into details on the obscene diffculty of finding a particular New York City, how similar it is to finding a needle in a haystack, Montgomery finds the cab with minimal diffuclty. Instead of taking this grain of uniqueness and building it into a clever action movie, the script provides Montgomery with a series of external obstacles, unrelated to finding the cab. While Montgomery spends most of the first and second acts getting chased as he pursues the taxi, the writer plunders new depths of ridiculousness in the third act. The two-person impromptu bank-heist is too absurd to take seriously, obliterating what little suspense and momentum the story generated. The whole thing descends into an unsatisfying, standard-issue gunfight and rescue.

The plot might seem less uninspired if the writer bothered to engender any interest in his characters. They don’t have a shred of individuality, from each other or from other action-movie characters. Cartoonishly evil villains, overly hostile cops, an antihero who just wants to save his precocious daughter, an old friend who inevitably betrays the hero… All of these archetypes have been done better elsewhere. Here, they don’t feel like living, breathing people. They’re just props the writer guides through a dull plot.

If the stunts and action sequences don’t measure up, this script will offer nothing else to engage the audience.

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Communication Problems

Here’s the deal: this is the first free time I’ve had since my last post. Now, I had some free time prior to that post, but not much. The combination of work and my own writing led me to abandon you, lovely readers, and then, approximately 30 seconds after I published the last post, a deluge of horrible scripts forced me to work, on average, 850 hours over the past 10 days. I have not had time to do anything that I enjoy. Okay, technically I enjoy scripts, but only when they’re good, and of the 738,243 scripts I’ve read this year, four of them have been good, and one of those was not a script I read for work.

In other words, over the past 10 days I’ve been busy exclusively with work, but over the past few months, I’ve divided my time between an increasingly busy work schedule and writing projects that I hope, someday, will lead to me getting paid. That’s the key part of the story I’m about to tell: I need money, and I’m sick of doing shit for free. You guys are lucky I need to vent, or I would have abandoned this blog two years ago.

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Opposites Attract

Author: Dan Ewen

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Storyline: 6

Dialogue: 9

Characterization: 8

Writer’s Potential: 7

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

When an uptight career woman swaps bodies with her lazy slob of a fiancé, the couple must cope with each others’ lives in order to keep their relationship from disintegrating.


Synopsis:

College freshmen CHARLIE WHITAKER and HOLLY BAXTER are complete opposites: she values good grades and the respect of her sorority sisters; Charlie sings in a horrible cover band and values drinking above all else. Hanging out with friends CHASE (stoner) and HUGHIE (geek) at the local bar, Charlie spots Holly across the bar and is smitten. They flirt, and Charlie drags her up to the stage for karaoke. They spend the rest of their college careers spending time together and falling in love. At graduation, Charlie steals the microphone from the dean and proposes to Holly in front of everyone. She accepts.

Six years later, they’re still engaged. Charlie barely makes money from his job managing the 80 Watt, a once-prestigious nightclub that is now a laughing stock. Holly splits her time between working as an on-camera salesperson for the Shop-at-Home Network and encouraging Charlie to do something more useful with himself. Holly has a bitter rivalry with her on-air partner, ALEXIS. Charlie has a deep connection with club owner NIGEL, a former roadie who worked for all the great bands. Unfortunately, Nigel is bitter and depressed that his club is reduced to a performance from a Whitesnake cover band that draws a crowd of 12 people. During the day, Charlie watches Holly on TV and shouts encouragement at the screen. He hangs out at Arby’s with Chase and Hughie. They play a game in which they try to figure out men they’d have sex with, if they had to. Holly has lunch with Alexis and producer KENNY, who’s brusque and apathetic. Alexis shows off photos of her honeymoon, subtly needling Holly because she’s been engaged for so long. To save their relationship, Holly and Charlie go to counseling with a traditional therapist, a creepy new age therapist, and a sinister yet overbearing German therapist. None of it is effective—in fact, the traditional therapist begs them to break up. Privately, they discuss the idea of breaking up. Both still love each other, but they’re sick of one another.

Charlie asks Nigel for advice. Citing rock star Sting as a success story, Nigel suggests Charlie embrace Tantra. Charlie’s dubious, but Nigel assures him that this will save their relationship. Charlie rents a do-it-yourself Tantra video, Titantric, from the store where Hughie works. Holly is disgusted, but Charlie says it’s an absolute last resort. The relationship is doomed, anyway, so it’s not like this could make things worse. Charlie spends the entire day preparing the apartment as a Tantric love den. When Holly returns from work, they turn on the video. MASTER KEN, a stereotypical Indian guru, guides them through the process. They turn up the heat, get into an uncomfortable position, and breathe slowly. Master Ken tells them to remain in the position until he tells them to stop. Seven hours later, they’ve fallen asleep. The next morning, Holly wakes up, scratches her bag, lumbers across the room to the bathroom, and attempts to pee standing up. She screams at what she sees, waking Charlie. To their mutual shock and horror, they realize their minds have switched bodies. Charlie’s mind now controls Holly, and vice-versa. Holly calls in sick. Together, they consult with a psychiatrist, who forces them to role play; a rabbi, who thinks it’s a practical joke; and a priest, who attempts to exorcise them. Hughie knows Master Ken’s publicist, so they use him to get his contact information. They visit him on a golf course, where he turns out to be a typical American rich snob—no accent, no turban, no mysticism. He tells them he’s heard of their problem but can offer no help. He suggests that the gods made this happen because Holly and Charlie needed it to happen.

Unable to fix the problem with anything but Master Ken’s suggestion to “walk in each other’s shoes,” Charlie gives Holly a photo tour of Holly’s job. The next morning, Charlie has to drag Holly out of bed. Holly is confused by the female morning grooming rituals. Charlie coaches her through it. Holly, who doesn’t exactly have the hang of high heels, wobbles through the TV studio. Everyone realizes she’s acting strangle, but Holly insists she’s just having a “blah” day. They put her on the air, and she’s horrible—poor interaction with callers, constantly reading Alexis’s lines as well as her own, etc. Charlie watches from home, cringing. Chase and Hughie drag Charlie to Arby’s, where they trash talk Holly and mock him for his lunch choice of garden salad. Charlie’s baffled when Chase and Hughie start discussing men they’d like to have sex with. The guys are confused, pointing out Charlie invented the game.

When Holly returns from work, Charlie asks if she got fired. Holly says to give her a day or two. That night, Holly accompanies Charlie to the 80 Watt Club, where she points out all the regulars and employees so Charlie can pretend to fit in. Charlie badgers Nigel about how filthy the bar is. On the way home, Charlie and Holly both apologize for sucking at the other’s job. Charlie reminds Holly that she has a pap smear the following morning. Disgusted, Holly asks if they can reschedule. Charlie takes her health very seriously and will not reschedule. The next morning, Charlie wakes Holly, stunned and baffled because he has an erection. Holly teaches him to pee standing up. Holly goes to the gynecologist’s office. Shocked by how attractive the doctor is, she becomes terribly aroused during the exam. Meanwhile, Charlie turns on Top Gun on TV and begins to masturbate. Holly walks in on him, horrified.

At lunch with her coworkers, Holly is horrified to hear that they’re cutting her show down to one host at the end of the month. Their boss, MR. BRYAN, has decided that whoever closes the month with more sales will get the solo job. So far, Alexis is ahead. Holly goes to the club and breaks the news to Charlie. Charlie, meanwhile, has realized Nigel’s club is lurching toward permanent closure. They’re both screwed. Charlie drags Holly to her parents’ house for her sister’s bridal shower. Holly wants to know why he has to come. Charlie casually observes that Holly is their daughter, no matter whose brain is in her head. After the party breaks up, Charlie and Holly stick around but separate, Holly helping mother MARIANNE with the dishes, Charlie going to the basement to look at GUS’s new trains. Holly learns from Marianne that Holly has been thinking about leaving Charlie. She also learns about Holly’s youthful obsession with comedian Sinbad. Charlie is horrified to discover that he has become, basically, a porn peddler for not just Gus—Marianne, as well. The car ride home is a long argument between Holly and Charlie about the evening’s revelations.

Now desperate to return to their own bodies, Holly and Charlie discuss what Master Ken said. They realize neither has made a particularly strong effort to “walk in each other’s shoes,” so they decide to really commit to it. Charlie comes to the 80 Watt Club with plans to save the club. Holly makes a concerted effort to beat Alexis in sales. Chase and Hughie drag Charlie to a basketball game. He realizes he has no clue how to play the game, but he does impress them at Arby’s with a detailed list of all the men he’d sleep with and why. Holly and Alexis go to a lunchtime exercise “boot camp.” Holly is amazed at all the women changing right in front of them. She offers to apply their sunscreen. On TV, Holly’s brash, witty style convinces a number of shoppers—most of them stoned college students—to buy from her. Charlie learns from Nigel that they have 17 days to raise $20,000, or the club has to close for good. Charlie demands a publicity budget in order to raise the club’s profile. Charlie does all he can to promote the club. Things go awry when Holly suddenly gets her period. She calls Charlie to coach her through it, but she’s horrified by what she has to do to take care of it. Charlie takes Chase and Hughie to a spa for massages, skin care, and waxing. He also starts the three of them on a diet, losing a noticeable amount of weight.

With their improved moods, Holly and Charlie reconnect. Charlie decides she wants to attempt sex. Holly’s uncomfortable with the idea, but they do it anyway. One day, Chase shows up to the apartment when Charlie’s gone but Holly’s home. He starts talking about deep, intimate conversations they’ve had and makes a romantic move. Holly decks him. Later, she gets into a fight with Charlie about their apparent love connection. They break up. Nigel announces that, with two days left, they only got halfway to their goal. Holly moves into a new apartment, but she’s back to doing a horrible job on TV. Finally, Holly decides she wants to beat Alexis, and beat her bad. Meanwhile, Charlie and Nigel pack up the club, and Charlie discovers tons of rare memorabilia Nigel has collected over the years. Charlie frantically attempts to promote an auction. They draw in a reasonable crowd of skeptics, but Nigel quickly convinces them with bizarre anecdotes about raunchy rock-star behavior. By the end of the night, they’re well over the top. The 80 Watt is saved. Charlie complains about Holly to Nigel. Nigel compares them to John Lennon and Yoko Ono—they might have seemed wrong to outsiders, but they made the other better.

On the last day of the month, Holly is stuck trying to sell broaches. She manages to make odd yet compelling arguments why both men and women would want broaches, but as the end of the day comes, she needs to make one more sale to beat Alexis. The sale goes to Charlie, who shows up in the studio and apologizes for trying so hard to change him. Holly apologizes for the same and presents Charlie with a huge folder full of completed wedding plans. They marry at the 80 Watt, officiated by Master Ken. Charlie realizes Holly hasn’t been taking her birth control pills and is pregnant.


Comments:

Opposites Attract tries to merge a traditional romantic comedy with a ridiculous “body-swapping” movie. It starts out fantastically well, but its third act loses focus on the plot. As written, it merits a consider.

The first and second acts are loaded with inspired comedy, mining the ridiculousness of the body-swap for all it’s worth. The writer does a good job of creating obstacles from the switch, delivering one hilarious scene after another. In the third act, the story completely runs out of steam. Rather than continuing to ratchet the tension and stakes, paying off what was set up in the first two acts, the story just spins its wheels on pointless gags that stop feeling inspired and stop feeling forced. Then, the resolution to every dangling plot thread is crammed into the last few pages.

Charlie and Holly start out as stereotypes, but the writer does a great job of adding depth and nuance after they switch bodies. Having them discover the pitfalls and secrets of each other’s lives is a great way to get to really dig deep into the characters. Most of the supporting characters are thin but funny enough to get away with it. Only Chase and Hughie are completely extraneous.

This script is hilarious and surprisingly relatable. With improvements to the third act, it’d definitely be worth recommending.

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Keep It Together (a.k.a., Love, Wedding, Marriage)

Author: Caprice Crane & Anouska Chydzik-Bryson

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Storyline: 3

Dialogue: 4

Characterization: 4

Writer’s Potential: 3

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

A newlywed marriage counselor is horrified when she discovers her parents plan on divorcing.


Synopsis:

Just before her wedding, AVA (29, confident) takes an emergency call from a client, recommending premarital counseling. Ava’s father, BRADLEY (62), walks her down the aisle. It’s a beautiful outdoor ceremony at the Napa Valley vineyard where Ava’s fiancé, CHARLIE (29), works. In voiceover, Ava explains that she learned everything she knows about making a marriage work from her perfect parents, Bradley and BETTY (58), who have been happily married for nearly 30 years. After the Christian ceremony, Bradley smashes a glass with his foot. Ava’s sister, SHELBY (25, immature), is surprised to learn her father is Jewish. During the reception, Charlie’s best friend, GERBER, drunkenly explains to Ava, in detail, how much he loves them. Six weeks later, Ava and Charlie move into a San Francisco house. At her office, Ava tries to calm down LLOYD and COURTNEY, a couple fighting over Courtney’s obsession with high-end shoes. Leading them out of the office, Ava encourages them both to think back to when they first met and list the qualities that attracted them to each other.

Since Ava’s usual receptionist is going on maternity leave, Ava hires Shelby to temporarily replace her. The only thing that interests Ava are prescription pills, and she’s disappointed to learn that Ava can’t prescribe drugs. Shelby suddenly gets an indecipherable text from Betty. Out in the parking lot, Betty and Bradley argue over whether or not Ava and Shelby know they’re there. They take the argument inside the building, but it becomes a more generalized fight about Bradley’s sudden obsession with his supposed Judaism. Finally, Betty comes out with it: she’s mad because Bradley had an affair. The news stuns Ava and entertains Shelby. Bradley insists it was okay because he and Betty were separated, further stunning Ava. Betty’s also mad because Bradley waited 25 years to tell her about it. She decides to move out.

After work, Ava tells Charlie what happened. Charlie suggests it doesn’t matter because it was so long ago, but Ava says that doesn’t matter—they were married at the time. Charlie tells Ava he invited a drunken Gerber to drop by. Ava is annoyed by this. Just as Gerber arrives, Ava gets an urgent call. Charlie drives Ava and Gerber to the police station. Just as Gerber is talking about how he’s decided Shelby is the one for him, Shelby exits the police station, gets into the car, and gripes about her new boyfriend getting pulled over for driving a stolen car. Gerber attempts to flirt with Shelby, but she will have none of it. Betty has moved into Shelby’s condo. Ava pleads with her not to divorce Bradley, but Betty says the situation is more complicated than a mere affair. Betty wants to enjoy life while she still can. Ava convinces her to go to a marriage counselor with Bradley. Ava meets Charlie at the vineyard. He presents them a special vintage created to celebrate their own marriage. Charlie’s surprised to hear Ava is still planning a 30th anniversary party for Betty and Bradley. Ava meets with a premarital couple, JOHN and AMY. She gives them lengthy questionnaires to fill out to judge weaknesses in their relationship that they can work on before tying the knot. Ava’s concerned because Bradley hasn’t picked up the phone all day. She goes to the house and discovers it’s completely dark. Bradley sits in silence, observing the Sabbath. Ava accuses Bradley of avoiding the fact that Betty left.

When Charlie comes home, Ava kisses him passionately to soften the blow that Bradley is now living with them. Gerber arrives, introducing IRINA, his new wife. She’s Russian and barely speaks a word of English. Gerber met her the previous night at a bar and fell in love. Ava is horrified that Gerber would have such disrespect for marriage, but Charlie’s happy Gerber is settling down. The next morning, Charlie wakes Ava up hoping to have sex. Ava’s uncomfortable with the idea of sex while Bradley’s in the next room, but she gives in—until a loud pounding gets them both out of bed. They find Bradley downstairs, hanging a Mezuzah and pictures Bradley didn’t want hung. Bradley and Betty go to a session with DR. GEORGE, an eccentric therapist who tells them to let out their bad vibes by shaking their limbs and hopping like rabbits. He also suggests the two of them participate in the “Brush with Death,” a revolutionary tactic where they completely separate—no communication between the two of them for six months. Betty’s on board, but Bradley isn’t sure. Ava and Charlie go to a restaurant to meet Gerber. Ava’s annoyed by the amount of time the couple is forced to spend with him, but Charlie says Gerber and Irina need third-party documentation that their marriage is more than a sham, so Irina can get her green card. Gerber gets drunk and spills the beans that Charlie was previously married. Ava’s shocked, but Charlie insists he was drunk and in Las Vegas, so it meant nothing. This doesn’t make Ava feel better. The next morning, Bradley tells Ava about the “Brush with Death.” She’s alarmed, especially since she recommended Dr. George. Ava tells Bradley to apologize to Betty, but he reminds her that they are not allowed to contact one another.

While shopping, Ava and Shelby catch sight of Betty. Not wanting to talk to her, Shelby pulls Ava into a maternity store. Betty sees them and gets excited, until Ava tells her she’s not expecting. Betty tries to explain her side of the story—she thinks it’s time for a break. Ava accuses her of being irresponsible, but Betty says that she’s never had a chance to be on her own, to travel. Ava and Shelby had their chances, but Betty got married young. She’s leaving for Thailand in 10 days—four days before her anniversary. Back at home, Charlie apologizes to Ava and talks about taking steps to make amends. Ava has to break the news to Bradley that Betty has no interest in seeing a new therapist or getting back together. Ava asks Charlie to take Bradley out while she convinces Betty not to leave. Charlie reminds Ava that this is not their responsibility. Ava says he owes her for the lie about his previous marriage. Charlie agrees.

Charlie and Gerber take Bradley first to a bar, then to a strip club. Ava tries to convince Betty to go traveling with Bradley, but Betty insists he’ll never go. He’s stuck in a rut and refuses to change. Bradley comes back to Ava’s, drunk as a skunk. Livid, Betty sees this as yet another reason for divorce. Ava yells at Charlie for thinking it’d be a good idea to take Bradley carousing. Charlie offers that if Ava took a step back and looked at their relationship instead of her parents’, she’d realize their marriage isn’t going much better. Back at the office, Lloyd and Courtney thank Ava for looking back at their reasons for getting together. They both got married for the wrong reasons, so they’ve amicably agreed to divorce. At the condo, Betty practices Thai with a language-lesson CD. Bradley drops by with a peace offering of Thai food and a few phrases he learned from the restaurant manager. He tells Betty he’d change anything about himself and do anything to keep their marriage together. Betty mentions a secret he’s keeping from Ava and Shelby and says telling them the truth is the only way. Bradley can’t.

Charlie comes to Ava’s office. They apologize to each other. Charlie offers to take her to the vineyard’s annual grape crush. Ava agrees. While driving, Shelby calls Ava and asks if she has plans. Ava tells her about the grape crushing. Shelby says she plans to take Betty out to show her what single life is like. Ava’s horrified. While passing a gym with windows looking out on the street, Shelby catches sight of a good-looking man, IAN, working out. She’s surprised when Bradley appears behind Ian with muted words of encouragement. Shelby returns to the office and asks Ava if she knows about Bradley’s gym membership. They’re interrupted by John, who returns to tell Ava things didn’t work out with Amy. He asks out Shelby. Ava goes home and asks Bradley why he had an affair. Bradley says the why doesn’t matter. The important thing is that he did, because he realized as soon as it happened how much he loved Betty, and immediately begged for her to take him back. Ava thinks Bradley’s holding something back, but he won’t admit it. He just says he’s so miserable he can’t sleep. Ava offers him some of Charlie’s sleeping pills.

Ava doesn’t show up to the grape crush. Instead, she flushes the remainder of the sleeping pills, then dials 911. Charlie comes home, angry until he sees the ambulance. Terrified, he asks what happened. Ava announces Bradley took an entire bottle of sleeping pills. They follow the ambulance to the ER, where they meet up with Shelby and Betty. Everyone’s shocked. The doctor arrives to tell them that Bradley will be fine—he only took a few pills, nowhere near a lethal dose. Charlie finds this odd. Ava admits she flushed the rest of the pills in order to bring Bradley and Betty back together. Charlie is livid. She could lose her license and go to jail for a stunt like this. Ava insists she did it for her parents, but Charlie accuses her of only thinking of herself. He storms away. Bradley wakes up to find Betty by her side. They renew their love. Just as Shelby and Ava prepare to leave, Ian storms into the hospital. Shelby flirts, until Ian tells them he’s their half-brother. Bradley explains the situation to all of them. He didn’t know until Ian sought Bradley out, just after Ava’s wedding. The next day, Betty yells at Ava for the stunt she pulled. She tells Ava to apologize to Charlie. Charlie goes to the vineyard and does a poor job of apologizing. She tries to explain her feelings about her parents’ marriage, but Charlie doesn’t think the problem has more to do with Ava than her parents. Ava leaves, sobbing. Ava and Shelby bring Bradley and Betty to the vineyard, where their surprise anniversary party waits. Shelby makes Ava realize that marriage isn’t easy. Charlie shows up and, in lieu of apologizing, comes up with some new vows. She agrees, then they have sex in the bushes.


Comments:

Keep It Together tries to put a new spin on old romantic-comedy clichés. Instead, the script embraces the clichés, offering an unsatisfying story populated by stock characters. As written, it merits a pass.

Although the first act sets up some narrative ideas that could pay off pretty well, the second act becomes frenzied and unfocused. Rather than the scenes building an increasing amount of drama as the story unfolds, this script is more like a collection of loosely connected scenes that don’t point toward an overall story. Although everything resolves tidily, the third act continues the feeling of aimlessness, making the entire script seem oddly lifeless. The fact that the script uses dialogue to tell the bulk of its story, and the dialogue is more on-the-noise than witty and engaging, contributes to that lifelessness.

Another troubling aspect is that Ava, the “straight woman” protagonist who is the centerpiece of the story, is not interesting at all until the third act, and when she becomes interesting, she loses her likability. While the writers attempt to explain Ava’s desperate, illegal actions, it rings false, and Ava never regains her empathetic qualities. The other major characters are pretty much stock—the seemingly perfect husband with a dark side, the sarcastic sister, the obnoxious best buddy, the free-wheeling older woman, and the clueless old man who falls victim to the generation gap. The writers don’t do anything to breathe life into these clichés, which might also add to why the story seems so dull.

If the writers can’t breathe life into the characters, maybe skilled actors can. Even if that’s possible, the story needs significant work in order to stand out as a worthy romantic comedy. Acting alone can’t save it.

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The Details

Author: Jacob Aaron Estes

Genre: Comedy

Storyline: 3

Dialogue: 4

Characterization: 2

Writer’s Potential: 3

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

A husband’s little white lies spiral out of control, resulting in extramarital affairs and murder.


Synopsis:

JEFF and NEALY LANG celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. After, Jeff apologizes to Nealy for an unseen fight before the party. He tries to make it up to her sexually, but Nealy puts him off, claiming she had too much to eat. They make plans to have sex on Friday. They go home and discover the new sod that has been rolled in their backyard has been torn apart by some sort of animal. The next morning, Jeff methodically puts the yard back in its right place. On his way to work, he passes two teens practicing archery on their yard, as well as his loner next door neighbor, LILA, who walks her dog and carries a white cat. Jeff and Nealy both arrive at their respective jobs. Jeff is an obstetrician; Nealy works at a candle store. That night, animals tear up the yard again. The next morning, Jeff photographs the paw prints, then uses Google to match them to other photos. He decides raccoons are the culprits.

Jeff plays basketball with LINCOLN, a large black man with a scarred hand and a missing finger, and needs a kidney transplant. Jeff is horrible at the game, but Lincoln has fun. Jeff spreads granulated coyote urine to scare off the raccoons. Nealy reminds him it’s Friday night, but nothing important registers in Jeff’s mind. He’s obsessed. Jeff gets a form to obtain a permit to add a small extension to their house’s front room. He brings home humane traps to try and capture the raccoons. The raccoons don’t fall for it. Nealy asks why they don’t simply repeat what they did in the front yard in the back. Jeff complains that he never had a sprawling, grassy backyard as a child, and he wants their son LUKE (2) to have better. Jeff continues to Google and tries every imaginable remedy for the raccoon problem. They keep coming. Jeff and Nealy get into a fight about it, which escalates until she hits him in the face with a book, giving him a black eye. At her store, a customer greets Nealy. Turns out she’s been having an affair with him. To his surprise, she breaks it off. Meanwhile, Jeff visits REBECCA MAZONNI to gripe about the fight he and Nealy had. They flirt, but it’s clear nothing has happened between them. Later that night, Nealy tells Jeff she plans to start going back to therapy. Although Jeff doesn’t believe in therapy, he supports the decision.

Jeff complains that the judge wouldn’t grant their variance, so their only solution is to go ahead without a permit. In order to do that, they have to butter up Lila, who complained incessantly about their construction projects when they moved in. Jeff and Nealy buy her a small cactus, which Jeff hands to Lila one morning before work. Lila attempts to flirt with him, but Jeff finds her repulsive. Lila tells Jeff any construction they do will be fine with her. JOSé leads his crew on the project the next morning. Jeff plays one-on-one with Lincoln, who tells him about the accident that injured his hand. He almost went pro, but the accident destroyed his career. Jeff relays the depressing story to Nealy, who suggests helping to get him a coaching job at a friend’s wife’s school. Meanwhile, Nealy confesses about the affair to a friend, who suggests they need couples’ therapy. Nealy says that’ll never happen. Jeff seeks out Lincoln at the Home Depot and tells him he set up an interview for him at his friend’s sister’s school. Lincoln is touched.

Lila catches Jeff before work to complain about the dust from the construction. Jeff looks inside her house and sees nothing but normal dust, but he agrees to spring for a cleaning service. When Lila complains about her inability to sleep, he says he’ll bring a sample pack of Ambien. Lila is thrilled and flirty. Jeff asks José for poison to kill the raccoons. At dusk, Jeff finds a bottle of blue fluid and a can of tuna on his front stoop. After getting Nealy’s unenthusiastic approval, Jeff leaves the trap out. He gets on the computer and e-mails a “topless massage” therapist, asking if she’ll meet him at a bar for a drink and give him his “massage” in the bathroom. He gets an emergency call and rushes out, leaving the e-mail on the screen. When he gets home, Nealy confronts Jeff about it. Jeff explains that it’s like interactive porn. He browses for these women, e-mails them, but never follows through. Nealy can’t help laughing at the ridiculous, even though she’s still irritated. When she calms down, Nealy asks if it’d just be easier to divorce. This starts an argument, which leads to sex. The next morning, the tuna can is empty, but the lawn is destroyed and no dead raccoons are in sight. Jeff discovers Lila’s bill for the cleaning service. He goes next door to write Lila a check. Lila asks if he’s seen her cat, which didn’t come home last night. Lincoln calls Jeff, saying he went to the interview and it went well.

Jeff meets Rebecca at a bar for a drink. He discusses his massage therapist fetish and the awkwardness of his “make-up sex” with Nealy. Rebecca brings Jeff back to her place. Jeff asks about Rebecca’s husband, Pete, but she says he works late. They go into the garage, where Rebecca rolls a joint while Jeff admires Pete’s vintage Alfa Romeo. He turns on the car radio and hears a report about kidney donors. His conversation with Rebecca grows more intimate, and they end up having sex. Immediately after, both feel guilty. Rebecca tells Jeff not to tell Nealy—it’ll just make things worse. Jeff agrees. The next morning, Jeff and Luke make breakfast in bed for Nealy. Jeff leaves for the hospital. Lila sees him and follows. Jeff finds PETE waiting for him. He verbally abuses Jeff in front of Jeff’s patients, then storms away. Jeff sees Lila, but she doesn’t say anything and follows Pete out. After work, Jeff stops by Lila’s. She shows him her dead cat, in a box, and blames him. She says she knows he didn’t mean to kill the cat, but it doesn’t change the fact that he did. She tries to seduce Jeff, but when he rebuffs her advances, she starts screaming that she knows all about Rebecca and Pete and will tell Nealy. Lila tells Jeff she dreamed of them having sex in a past life, and she wants to recreate the experience. Jeff reluctantly lets her.

Jeff comes home to find Luke dressed like a fairy princess. Nealy shrugs it off and tells Jeff that Pete called wanting Jeff to meet him tomorrow to discuss a business proposal. Jeff covers by saying Pete wanted him to invest in a new restaurant. Nealy thinks it’s a good idea. Jeff has a nightmare about raccoons getting into the house. Jeff visits Pete, who demands $200,000 in cash for his silence. Jeff wonders why wealthy Pete would need this money. Pete says he doesn’t, but he knows Jeff does. Jeff calls Rebecca, who tells Jeff that Pete is big on Italian loyalty and revenge, despite being Irish. A few days later, Jeff pulls the money out of their house’s equity, but he can only get $75,000. Pete agrees to meet him on a bridge in the center of town. Pete takes the money and dumps it into the river. He tells Pete that he hoped Jeff would be a good guy and simply tell Jeff what’s going on. He tells Jeff he’d be a better person if he made amends for his mistakes.

Jeff gets an idea. After taking Nealy over to Lincoln’s family’s house to introduce her to them, Jeff brings up the idea of donating one of his kidneys to save Lincoln’s life. Nealy’s unsure, but Jeff is convinced it will make him a better person, and her support of him will make her a better person. Nealy agrees. Jeff gets tested, then goes to the school where Lincoln now works to deliver the good news. Lincoln is stunned and thrilled, wondering aloud if Jeff is an angel. Jeff goes in for the surgery, which is a success. Lincoln thanks Jeff from the bottom of his heart. Lila visits Jeff in the hospital and announces she’s pregnant with his child. Jeff tries to talk Lila into an abortion, causing her to scream bloody murder. When Jeff comes home from the hospital, he finds a note from Lila, saying they need to talk. She tells Jeff that she wants no money or commitment from him. She just wants their son growing up knowing his father, which will be easy since he already lives next door. Jeff brings Lila in for an examination. They watch the baby on the monitor.

Jeff tells Lincoln the entire Lila story. Jeff jokes that he wishes his archer neighbors would accidentally shoot her. Lincoln reminds him of the sixth commandment: thou shalt not kill. Nealy tells Jeff she heard Rebecca and Pete filed for divorce. Lincoln thinks wearily. He drives to a sporting goods store across state lines and buys an elaborate crossbow. He sneaks over to Lila’s house at night and prepares to shoot her with the crossbow. When she pleads for her life, he has a change of heart. Then she notices the missing finger and recognizes him. Left with no choice, Lincoln shoots her with an arrow. The archer neighbors find her the next morning. Nealy calls Jeff at work to tell him the bad news, and also to say the police want to interview him. Lincoln calls Jeff. Calmly, Lincoln explains that Jeff bears no responsibility. What Lincoln did, he did alone. He understood Jeff was joking and venting. Lincoln made the choice to act.

Nealy and Jeff go to Lincoln’s church. On the way home, Jeff confesses everything to Nealy—the affairs, the raccoons, the dead cat, the pregnancy, the kidney, Lincoln, the murder. She’s shocked, but she admits to her own affair. Jeff decides they should divorce and he should turn himself in, along with Lincoln. Nealy disagrees. She believes Jeff is a good man who did some bad things, and that Lincoln may be a bad man, but he’s generally harmless and has a family who need him. Similarly, Luke needs Jeff. She thinks they should keep the secret and work through it. Jeff says it’s a nice thought, but he’s concerned Lila might have a journal or something that gives Jeff the motive. He interviews with the police, who don’t know a thing about Lila. She has no friends, barely any family, didn’t keep any journals. He and Lincoln are off the hook. The city catches on to Jeff’s construction and forces him to stop. José tells Jeff they should just do in the backyard what they did in the front. Jeff laughs at how avoidable this catastrophe could have been.


Comments:

The Details isn’t sure whether it wants to be a cheery romantic comedy or a dark, Coen Brothers-esque comedy. It combines a hateful protagonist with an incoherent plot, meriting the script a pass.

The primary problem with the story is its structure. What happens in the first act doesn’t seem to have a thing to do with the second act, and the second act has little to do with what happens in the third act. The story introduces and drops characters and narrative threads without ever picking them back up. Bringing it all back to the raccoon-infested yard on the last page doesn’t make it any easier to ignore the fact that raccoons stopped being relevant to the script somewhere in the second act. It’s just a big, sloppy, structurally unsound mess. The jarring tonal shifts cerainly don’t help make the script cohesive. Switching from sunny, goofy comedy to bleak, offbeat comedy every other scene doesn’t seem like an intentional choice, but if it is, it’s unsuccessful.

Jeff epitomizes unlikability. Worse than that, the writer never bothers to give his unpleasantness a believable or empathetic explanation. He’s just not a nice guy, which will make it hard for audiences to root for him. His nastiness isn’t even particularly funny—he’s just blandly self-obsessed. Nealy and Lincoln have some interesting shades but don’t get nearly enough material to blossom and overshadow Jeff. Lila, Rebecca, and Pete have their share of quirks, but they have even less screen time than Nealy and Lincoln. Despite the quirks, they don’t rise above stereotypes.

The Details has so many flaws in its storytelling, it can’t be saved by acting, directing, or editing. It needs more than a polish to make it worthwhile.

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Protection (a.k.a., Bullet for the Border)

Author: Brandon Noonan

Genre: Action

Storyline: 1

Dialogue: 3

Characterization: 1

Writer’s Potential: 1

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

After failing to escort a political family through Mexico, a mercenary must cross the U.S. border to find the family’s daughter, who’s been targeted by a vicious gang.


Synopsis:

A group of private security men prepare to lead the Mexican governor from Mexico City to Phoenix, Arizona, for a court appearance regarding gang members. Security’s tight because the gang will attempt to attack them along the way. The group of security men have a tight rapport, with the exception of a white man only known as HOMBRE. He’s new, and he’s a loner. The deeper they move into Mexico City, the harder it is to control the situation around them. The SUV convoy is attacked, and most of the security men are killed, as is the governor and his wife. Daughter LUCY (16) is entrusted to Hombre, who’s been stabbed but is okay. Hombre carjacks a man in a Mercedes, and he and Lucy make their escape. While on the highway, Hombre’s bleeding increases and he loses consciousness. He awakens in a Catholic-run orphanage, being tended to by nuns. When he’s well enough to leave, the monsignor tells Hombre that the gangsters came to the orphanage because they recognized the stolen Mercedes. He managed to get Lucy out and hide Hombre, but they’ll track Lucy and kill her. He tells Hombre he sent Lucy to a cathedral to purchase safe passage to the U.S.

Hombre goes to the cathedral. He bribes CHRISTOPHER to gain passage of his own to the U.S. He’s led, along with 15 or so Mexicans, into a secret compartment in a truck, driven by PILATE. The truck is stopped in the middle of the desert by a group of soldiers. Hombre listens to Pilate talk to the soldiers. A MEXICAN WOMAN sitting next to Hombre has a mystery package that they want. Pilate takes it, then goes with the soldiers, abandoning the truck with the migrants locked in the secret compartment. When the migrants shout for Pilate to come back, one of the soldiers fires a single bullet into the truck. It kills the Mexican Woman and creates chaos. Hombre uses his knife to chop apart the wooden roof of the truck. He leads the migrants out, then climbs back down to tend to the Mexican Woman. Dying, she calls for her son, Alejandro. Hombre pulls her from the truck, then drives it until he catches up with the soldiers. He kills them all, then demands Pilate tell him where the next drop point is. Terrified, Pilate tells him. Hombre stabs Pilate with his knife. Hombre drives to the drop point, where he catches up with the migrants. Hombre takes Pilate’s place as the “coyote,” willing to lead them to the border.

PEDRO INFANTE, a sinister cop with gang ties, investigates the dead soldiers and Pilate. He sees the grave Hombre dug for the Mexican Woman, a little confused. Pilate’s ID leads Infante back to the cathedral, where he asks for Christopher’s help in tracking down the migrants. Meanwhile, Hombre and the migrants are shoved into a fruit truck, driven by white men into the U.S. They’re told to empty their pockets completely, then taken to a “drop house” in Phoenix, where they’re put in a basement. Hombre notices a young boy, ALEX, standing in the yard, waiting. Hombre watches as HECTOR, who runs the drop house, tells Alex something. Alex reacts in disbelief. Hombre looks at the locket he took from the Mexican Woman. Inside is a photo of Alex. Infante finds Hector when he returns to Mexico for the next group of migrants. He demands to know what the new “coyote” looked like. Hombre and the other migrants work as roofers. An older man, ALONZO, is in desperate need of water. Hombre sees Alex staring at them still. He yells for Alex to bring some water. Alex does. At lunchtime, Alex practices tricks on his bike when a group of gang bangers come and threaten him. Hombre steps in, and when they threaten him, Hombre attacks. The gang bangers are both frightened and angry. After beating some of them badly enough to scare the others away, Hombre tells Alex that he’s in Phoenix to find Lucy.

Alex takes Hombre to a youth center run by CEBALLOS, who denies seeing Lucy. Hombre sees through the lies and eventually admits he sent Lucy to a place called “Fashion 41.” An I.C.E. agent meets Infante on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport. Alex tells Homnbre that his dad died a year ago, and his mom’s on her way from Mexico. In the meantime, he’s been crashing at the homes of other kids in the neighborhood. They arrive in Phoenix’s Garment District and look for Fashion 41. Infante meets with gangsters FAUSTO and RONALDO, looking for Lucy and/or Hombre. Fashion 41 is a dull, disgusting factory. Hombre wanders among the workers, presenting a photo of Lucy and asking for help. Everyone ignores him, except the FLOOR MANAGER, whom Hombre beats until an OLD WOMAN explains that Lucy was at Fashion 41 but left days ago. Infante, Fausto, and a large group of gangsters also arrive at Fashion 41. When they see Hombre and Alex, they start shooting. Hombre and Alex make an escape. Infante follows them out. Hombre sends Alex away, then runs to an abandoned building. He runs to the roof while Infante shoots at him from the ground level. Hombre drops the locket on the way up, and Infante takes it. When Infante announces his name, Hombre recognizes it as the name of an old Mexican actor. Infante proudly states that he was more than an actor—for many years, he was Mexico. When Hombre insults the older Pedro Infante, his descendant gets angry and rushes up to the roof, but Hombre’s long gone.

Hombre stays with Alex, who’s living with his friend JAVIER (16). Infante has Fausto send his gangsters around town, looking for Hombre and Alex. They find Javier’s house in the middle of the night. Hombre tries to hide while Javier deals with the situation, but Alex wants to confront them. Realizing Alex is in over his head, Javier sends Alex away and makes up a story about him having mental problems. When the gangsters are gone, Javier complains to Hombre about migrants leaving Mexico to escape these gangsters, and now they’re here, too. The next morning, Hombre and Alex steal Javier’s car. Alex drives so Hombre can lay low. They wait at Ceballos’s youth center until Hombre stops some hired muscle. Alex follows them to a palatial estate, where a party is going on. Alex smoothly convinces the valets that he and Hombre are hired help. Sneaking around, Hombre finds Ronaldo in the study with his daughter. Ron is preoccupied with a leather-bound accounting ledger, which catche’s Hombre’s eye. Ron catches Hombre sneaking around and knows exactly who he is. They threaten one another, but Ron can’t do anything at this party. Hombre leaves, with the accounting ledger. Ron sees him go with it but can’t do anything with so many witnesses. Alex takes Hombre back to Ceballos, who admits he tried to get Lucy “off the radar” by sending her to what they call a hub, a cattle ranch where she can get new papers and disappear.

Hombre drives to the cattle ranch, but Fausto and his men have been tipped off. They fight in the middle of the killing floor, while the migrants flee in terror. All except one—Lucy, whose hair has been cut to make her look like a boy. Hombre kills Fausto, but cops arrive, and he’s forced to flee before getting to Lucy. Javier takes Hombre to VATO’s house for safety. Alex is there, too. He’s made “missing” posters for Lucy. Hombre’s touched by his thoughtfulness. One of Ron’s gangsters monitors security footage from the cattle ranch. He sees Hombre getting into Javier’s car, zooms in on the license plate, cross-references it with the DMV, and gets Javier’s address. Infante is alerted. From the roof, Hombre can see Javier’s place. It’s set on fire. Javier’s horrified and upset by this. Hombre suddenly realizes Alex is missing.

He’s with Infante, who feeds Alex a bunch of documents suggesting that Hombre is responsible for everything that’s happened so far, and he only wants Lucy so he can kill her. Alex doesn’t believe Infante until he produces the locket. Hombre asks Javier and Vato for guns and a ride. They’re angry at Infante and the gangs, so they’re happy to oblige. Hombre goes to a tenement complex where the gangsters are headquartered. He fights, shoots, and stabs his way inside. When he reaches Alex, Alex demands to know the truth from Hombre. Hombre tries to explain, but Alex doesn’t believe him. Hombre tells Alex everything she said before she died, and Alex realizes he could only know this if he was telling the truth. Infante and his gangsters start firing. Trying to keep Alex safe, Hombre retreats. Unable to escape, and unable to fight alone, Hombre gives Alex his knife. They fight together. Hombre returns to Infante, where they fight hand-to-hand. It’s a brutal assault, injuring both of them quite severely. Just before Infante delivers the deathblow, Alex drops the knife to Hombre, who stabs Infante in the neck.

Police arrive, arresting the gangsters who aren’t dead. When news of this breaks, Lucy seeks out Alex at Javier’s place. Alex and Javier visit Hombre at a fleabag motel, where he’s preparing to leave. They have brought Lucy. Hombre takes her to Ceballos, who takes her to a truck that will take her, and other migrants, very far away. Together, Hombre and Alex board a Greyhound bus.


Comments:

Protection tries to combine typical action-move plotting with a social conscience about the horrors of illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. Unfortunately, it uses the latter as little more than a stereotypical backdrop for uninspired action sequences. Since it also lacks a coherent plot and well-developed characters, the script simply fails on every level, meriting a pass.

By design, Hombre is such a man of mystery that the audience isn’t even told his real name, but his mystique is as dull and lifeless as the scripts many action scenes. It doesn’t make him intriguing or suspicious; it just makes him uninteresting, and without character development of any kind, it’s hard to care much about anything he does. Similarly, there’s absolutely no emotional connection between Hombre and Lucy. Hombre searches for her out of duty and civic responsibility, which is noble, but it certainly isn’t dramatic. Instead, the writer attempts to build an emotional connection with Alex, but it never quite works. Alex has some dimension, but Hombre’s stoicism makes it seem like Alex is baring his soul to a brick wall.

The script doesn’t have much story, so it’s surprising that it’s as frenzied and sloppy as it is. Characters refer to scenes that haven’t happened yet, some of them make cameo appearances long after Hombre has killed them, and minor details like Lucy’s father switching from a governor to a judge halfway through the script, all contribute to this incoherence. Otherwise, the story follows a rigid formula as Hombre pursues Lucy, battles Infante, and bonds with Alex. The first act sets Hombre on a course for Lucy, and Infante on a course for Hombre. In the second act, Hombre searches various places for Lucy as the body count rises. In the third act, he does away with Infante, and Lucy comes to him. The writer spends too much time trying to develop a bond between Hombre and Alex, who serves little purpose other than to keep the plot moving with his knowledge of Phoenix. The author builds little suspense or jeopardy regarding Lucy’s fate, so it’s hard to care much about about Hombre’s desperate search for her.

If Protection has a great, stylish director who can choreograph its many action sequences into a breathtaking tour de force, there might be some hope for it. However, it has too many story and character problems for it to ever truly succeed.

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Ceremony

Author: Max Winkler

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Storyline: 3

Dialogue: 6

Characterization: 4

Writer’s Potential: 4

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]

Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

A young children’s book author tries to stop the woman he’s sleeping with from marrying the man she’s engaged to.


Synopsis:

At the public library, SAM (early 20s) reads a children’s book he wrote to a group of confused children and their equally confused parents. MARSHALL (20s) waits impatiently near Sam. A librarian asks Sam what he’s doing. Sam helpfully explains that he’s workshopping his new book. Sam and Marshall flee the library before the librarian calls security. Sam puts a suitcase into Marshall’s station wagon, then marvels at the amount of luggage Marshall brought for a three-day trip. Marshall launches into the variety of possibilities that could come up that he needed to prepare for, but Sam says all he wants to do is relax and catch up with Marshall, whom he hasn’t seen in a year. As they drive out of New York City and into upstate countryside, Marshall rolls past a large house loaded with cars and guests. Marshall thinks this is where they’re staying, but Sam uneasily tells him their hotel is down the road. Further down the road, Sam sees a man stepping out of a blue Fiat and into a general store. He tells Marshall to stop so they can get snacks. Inside, Sam introduces himself to TEDDY, an polite Englishman who invites Sam and Marshall to join them at the mansion up the street over the weekend. Sam and Marshall go a little further up the road, where they check in to a cheap motel with a Native American motif. With Marshall disappointed by what a dump it is, Sam suggests they tak Teddy up on his offer. Down on the beach, Marshall catches the attention of a sad-looking blonde maid, ESME. Sam encourages Marshall to make a love connection, while Sam mingles with the crowd until he finds ZOE (mid-30s). They clearly know each other. Zoe demands to know what Sam is doing here. Sam insists he coincidentally ran into Teddy (Zoe’s brother), who invited him.

Just as Zoe warns Sam to leave, her fiancé, WHIT COUTELL, arrives. Zoe reluctantly introduces Sam and Whit, a brash and condescending documentarian. To the shock of both Sam and Zoe, Whit announces that he’s changed the date of their wedding—to this Sunday. Sam tells Marshall that Whit and Zoe extended an invitation for them to stay at the house, and they’re taking them up on it. Marshall gripes that he likes their hotel. He gripes even more when he discovers the cat defecated in their tub, and there’s no hot water. Sam and Marshall get suited up and go down to a nighttime garden party. Teddy proposes an obscene toast to Whit and Zoe. Whit cuts him off by giving a rehearsed “off-the-cuff” speech about how muche he loves Zoe. Sam takes the opportunity to do the same, but none of the guests have a clue who he is. To avoid embarrassment, Sam wanders off to the woods to vomit in private. Marshall follows him. He points out that the story Sam was reading in the library bears remarkable similarities to the triangle that has formed between Sam, Zoe, and Whit. Sam denies it, saying the characters in his books are amalgams of many, many people. Whit screens his latest documentary for all his friends. Bored, Zoe wanders back into the house. Sam pulls her into a closet and kisses her. Zoe yells at him for being so dramatic, then yells at him for coming after she sent him a postcard and left him a VoiceMail explicitly telling him not to crash this party. She reminds Sam that she was engaged when they met, and nothing’s changed. When Sam won’t give up, Zoe accuses him of acting like a child and leaves the closet.

Teddy gives Sam and Marshall some pills, which cause them each to lose control. Marshall flirts with Esme as Sam stumbles into the arms of MARGARET. Later that night, Sam and Marshall reconvene. Sam brags about sex with Margaret. Marshall believes Esme led him on. Sam immediately turns the conversation back to Zoe. Marshall tells Sam he can see many reasons why Zoe would go for a guy like Whit. Sam doesn’t want to hear it. Zoe, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shows up at Sam’s room. Sam forces Marshall to wait in the bathroom while he invites Zoe in. She starts out apologizing, but it turns into another argument about her marrying Whit. Zoe discovers Sam’s latest book and asks all about it. Sam tells her the story, which is really just a metaphor for Sam, Zoe, and Whit. Zoe, on the other hand, is working on her vows. She can’t think of anything. Sam offers to help her, but she has a hard time thinking of anything she actually likes about Whit. The next morning, Marshall admits he listened to everything Sam and Zoe said. Since Sam has clearly failed, Marshall wants to leave. Sam refuses. He presents Zoe with a clumsily homemade necklace with Zoe’s name on it. When Whit sees it, he ridicules Sam yet again, then asks Sam to take a ride on the beach with him. While riding in his dune buggy, Sam’s surprised when Whit praises his writing. He makes the subtle suggestion that Zoe is over Sam by pointing out that Zoe often takes up hobbies with passion and vigor, only to drop them like a bad habit a few months later. Whit asks Sam if he likes sailing.

Back at the house, Marshall goes through Sam’s things. He finds the postcard from Zoe, along with a fancy engagement ring. Downstairs, Marshall bumps into Zoe. They get to talking, and Marshall asks to hear about how she and Sam met. Zoe explains that they met in New York, on a rainy day. Neither of them had umbrellas, but Sam had a newspaper that he offered to share, for protection. This is eerily reminiscent of another of Sam’s stories, about two caterpillars who share an umbrella. Marshall lets slip about Sam’s ring, enraging Zoe. When Sam approaches, Marshall tells him the car is packed and asks if he’s ready to leave. Sam says he bet Whit $700 that he could beat him in the group’s annual boat race. Marshall’s baffled. Neither he nor Sam know a thing about racing, but Sam figures it’s not that difficult. On the boat, Sam and Marshall get into an argument. Marshall knows that Zoe doesn’t see him as anything serious, but after Sam’s talk with Whit, he’s more convinced than ever that Zoe will leave him. They get into a fistfight, resulting in Marshall getting knocked into the water. Instead of helping him back in the boat, Sam presses on, convinced he’ll win.

After the race, Zoe confronts Sam about lying to him about not getting her postcard. Marshall seeks out Teddy but discovers he’s drowning in the ocean. Marshall rushes in and pulls him out. Zoe calls for a medic. Zoe performs CPR, saving him. Marshall yells at Sam for lying to him about Zoe and ridicules him for his desire to hang around with a bunch of rich, irresponsible babies. He decides to leave, without Sam. When Sam tries to stop him, Marshall decks him. Later, Whit comes upon Sam, bleeding from the nose. He doesn’t offer to help. Sam goes up to his room and practices a speech that he’s sure will convince Zoe to leave Whit. Instead, Zoe walks in on him halfway through the speech. She invites him to go for a walk. Zoe says she admires Sam’s persistence, but he has to give it up. Zoe keeps kissing her, until they finally have sex. Later, Zoe gets up, complaining she’s late for her wedding. Sam’s confused—he thought this changed the game. When Zoe tells him otherwise, Sam says he’ll ruin the wedding by telling Whit about their affair in front of everyone. Zoe says everyone, including Whit, already knows. Sam’s shocked. Zoe tells Sam to grow up, then leaves. Sam doesn’t follow.

A montage follows, intercutting a flashback of Sam and Zoe’s first meeting with present-day Sam leaving the house and hitchhiking back toward the city and Zoe getting ready for her wedding. As he walks down the road, Sam sees Marshall’s car blow past, heading back toward the house. He’s confused but keeps walking. Minutes later, Marshall returns. He stops for Sam. Sam gets in, and Marshall explains he went back to get Esme’s phone number. Sam apologizes for the way he treated Marshall. Marshall accepts the apology and asks how things went with Zoe. Sam smiles and says he ruined her wedding. At the wedding, Zoe prepares to read her vows. Zoe opens her notebook, which is blank. Inside is the postcard Zoe sent Sam, with her message crossed out and “He’s everything I’m not. Start from there” in its place. Sam and Marshall ride on.


Comments:

Ceremony is a romantic comedy that lacks any actual romance. Despite some witty dialogue, the plot is too thin to get invested in, and the characters range from childish to irritating. As written, it merits a pass.

The script hardly has a story. In the first act, Sam and Marshall reconnect, then drive upstate and crash a party. In the second act, Sam tries desperately to convince Zoe to leave Whit while trying to one-up him. In the third act, Sam repeatedly humiliates himself and realizes things weren’t meant to be. Long, on-the-nose monologues describe Sam and Zoe’s relationship prior to this party-crashing, all of which sound like they’d form a more interesting and dramatic story, building up to this party-crashing rather than having the party be the whole story. Ceremony‘s actual plot feels like the world’s longest third act, suffering from a lack of momentum, suspense, or stakes because it spends so much time backpedaling in order to explain the more compelling circumstances that led to this tedious party.

Sam’s childish behavior makes him an insufferable protagonist. The writer doesn’t reveal enough about who Sam is to make him seem like a flawed but relatable person. He also doesn’t change enough in the third act to make it feel like this story was an important learning experience. Marshall’s character has a little more weight, but his inexplicable devotion to Sam, until his 180 in the third act, is never explained and strains credibility. Zoe and Whit are given only the most superificial traits, preventing them from rising above stereotypes. This is most detrimental with Zoe, since the story would have audiences believe Sam would go to these great, crazy lengths to be with her, yet it’s never made clear why.

Actors could probably make these characters seem more interesting and less irritating, but the story has too many problems for it to coast on the charms of its cast.

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