Author: Gail Niederhoffer
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:A group of college roommates reunite for a wedding.
Synopsis:In an old Victorian house, seven roommates sleep. LAURA wakes first and tries to wake her boyfriend, TOM, who refuses to get up. Instead, she turns to her best friend, LILA, who asks what time it is. Laura checks the clock and realizes they’ve all overslept. The group (which also includes females WEESIE and TRIPLER and males JAKE and PETE) shares an easy rapport as they rush to get ready for their college graduation. They arrive at the ceremony and realize they’ve completely missed it. Amused, they all start running away. Lila snaps a photo of it. Ten years later, Lila looks at her old photos, which hang on her walls along with a bulletin board that reveals complex wedding preparations. Tripler and Pete (now married) and Jake and Weesie (engaged) ride together to Lila’s family estate. Laura drives herself, and the separate cars arrive at the same time. As they pull up to the estate, Jake and Pete are stunned. They admire Tom’s good fortune. Lila greets everyone with excitement, and they slip into their old rapport.
Tom plays doubles tennis against Lila’s goony brother, CHIP (25), and father WILLIAM. Tom’s partner is Lila’s teenage sister, MINNOW. Annoyed by their vapid conversation, Tom intentionally loses the game so he can leave. Back at the estate, mother AUGUSTA surveys the arrangements for the elaborate outdoor ceremony. She also compliments each of them on their career paths — Tripler’s an actor, Weesie’s a doctor, Laura was recently published in The New Yorker, Jake’s attempting to write the great American novel, and Pete’s successful in finance. Augusta announces she’s putting them all up at another estate, Getty’s, across the fields from the Hayes family estate. Lila shows them all to their rooms at Getty’s. Alone in her room, Laura attempts to practice a toast for the rehearsal dinner. She can’t quite make it sincere. She complains to the other girls, who immediately start interrogating her about the collapse of her relationship with Tom. Turns out, the last time she saw him was a little more than a year ago, the night before he proposed to Lila.
At the rehearsal dinner, Augusta notices Tom eyeing Laura like a “lovesick sailor.” She points this out to Lila, who tries to ignore it. The friends and family all have a little too much to drink, and they give toasts that range from amusing to obnoxious. Laura gives a heartfelt speech about their college clique, who were nicknamed “The Romantics” because all of them dated each other at one time or another, which makes sense to Laura because they’re best friends, and best friends fall in love. Lila defies tradition by toasting Tom, observing that she gave up photography after college, but she no longer needs it because she has Tom, who is her lens. When the dinner breaks up, Lila reminds Tripler to meet her in her room to “tuck her in” at midnight and tells Tripler to remind the other girls. Lila goes back to the estate and quietly broods. Meanwhile, the others — including Tom and Chip — drunkenly wander down toward the ocean. They climb onto a wooden pier that’s loosely moored to the dock. They all convince Tom to give a speech of his own, and as he does, nobody realizes that they’ve become unmoored. They all dive into the water to swim back ashore. All of them arrive on the beach except Tom, which confuses the others because he was a champion swimmer in college. They all speculate the possibilities — he’s hiding from Lila after the awkwardness of the evening, he beat them all back and passed out on the lawn — before dividing up into search parties. Tripler and Jake partner up, as do Pete and Weesie. This leaves Chip and Laura. They split up, with Tripler reminding them about the “tuck in” at the last second.
Drunk out of his mind, Chip says a variety of obnoxious things about the collapse of Laura’s relationship with Tom. Eventually he tackles her and attempts to force himself on her. She shoves him away and storms off. Tripler and Jake go to the Hayes estate. Instead of looking for Tom, Tripler produces cocaine cut with Welbutrin. They both snort and discuss the strangeness of Tom’s getting together with Lila. Out on the lawn, Tom spots Laura. He’s hidden in the woods. Tom tells her he’s hiding and wonders if she wants to take a few minutes to talk. Weesie and Pete go to the Getty’s estate and discuss married life. Weesie is a little concerned about the impending nuptials. Tom and Laura start civil, but Laura gets caustic about Tom’s sudden, bizarre decision to dump her and ask out Lila, pointing out how coincidental it was that he chose to do this shortly after visiting the luxurious Hayes estate for the first time. She brings up old memories, but Tom cuts her off with a symbol-laden monologue about swimming — how he loves the security of a swimming pool but is terrified by the vastness and uncertainty of the ocean. Laura insists they were meant to be together. Tom isn’t changing his mind, so Laura gets angry and leaves.
Lila opens up to Minnow about her uncertainty about Tom. It turns into a fight, ending with Lila yelling at Minnow to leave. Minnow goes up to the attic and, in defiance of her sister, tries on Lila’s wedding dress. She hears Tripler and Jake stumbling into the attic, trips, and falls, getting dirt on the dress and tearing it. Tripler and Jake hear noises as Minnow hides. They decide the house is haunted. Jake confesses that his writing is going horribly and he should give up. Tripler feels the same way about her acting career. Their connection grows until Tripler kisses him. Minnow watches in awe.
When Laura arrives at the house, Weesie and Pete are singing off-key. Laura doesn’t want to deal with them, sneaks upstairs. Weesie and Pete dark one another to streak across the Getty’s lawns. Lila looks at her clock. It’s more than an hour past midnight. A knock at the door. She thinks it’s the girls, but it’s Tom. Tom asks Lila why she loves him. Lila gives plenty of reasons, then asks why Tom loves her. Tom tells her that’s the problem: he doesn’t know. So Lila provides Tom with the answers. Then she gets angry, because she always has to be the one to keep cool — Tom’s allowed to have his emotional freak-outs, but Lila never can. Tom apologizes, and they part ways for the night. As Tripler and Jake leave the attic, they hear Minnow sneeze. When they go to investigate, they see what looks like a ghost — it’s Minnow, caught in a dress that’s way too big for her. They run, terrified, across the lawns, where they stumble across a nude Pete. Weesie, meanwhile, has already realized it’s well past midnight. Tripler and Weesie go up to Lila’s room to apologize. Lila ask what happened to Laura. They pretend not to know.
Laura meets Tom in the woods. They reconnect with passion, kissing and professing love to one another. It’s implied that they have sex. Back at the Getty’s, Tripler, Weesie, Pete, and Jake compare notes. Nobody has seen Tom. Pete wants to tell Lila he disappeared, but the girls convince him to wait until morning. If Tom is still missing, they’ll tell her. The next morning, Laura wakes in the woods. Tom is gone. As she walks to the house, Laura comes upon Tripler and Weesie. They ask if she’s seen Tom. Laura denies it, so the girls say they’re going to tell Lila. Laura’s forced to admit she saw him. Lila goes up to the attic and finds her disheveled dress. She’s angry at Minnow, but Augusta insists it can be fixed before the wedding. Without Laura, the group tells Lila that Tom’s missing. They explain the whole story, but Lila says it’s absurd — she saw Tom last night, long after he supposedly disappeared. They think he’s MIA again, but Tom approaches, surprising them all. Weesie, Jake, Tripler, and Pete all make a group pact to forget everything they did the previous night. Lila prepares for the ceremony when Laura approaches. She admits she slept with Tom. They get into a big argument over him. Lila feels sorry for Laura, who she feels lives a fantasy of unrequited love to avoid intimacy in the present. Laura insists Tom loves her and accuses Lila of selfishness for marrying a man who clearly doesn’t love her. Lila tells Laura it doesn’t matter anymore. She’s marrying him in 10 minutes.
Panic-stricken, Laura watches the ceremony, waiting and hoping for Tom to stop himself. Instead, they recite sweet vows to one another. Just as they’re about to kiss, it starts to rain. The seven Romantics suddenly start running for cover, laughing. The image freezes, echoing Lila’s photograph from the beginning.
Comments:The Romantics is a wedding-themed drama that attempts to be a probing character study about love. However, its mediocre storyline and unsympathetic characters prevent the script from meeting its ambitions. As written, it merits a pass.
The script suffers from a very basic, uninspired story: in the first act, these old friends gather for Lila and Tom’s wedding, and the triangle between this couple and Laura is introduced. In the second act, everyone gets drunk at the rehearsal dinner, and they lose track of a visibly uncomfortable Tom. Once they form search parties, the story should really start humming along, as these characters get thrown out of their comfort zone and start revealing more about themselves. They never reveal anything unexpected or interesting, however, so it limps toward a third act that spends all its time on resolving the love triangle with an ineffective combination of preachy monologues and melodramatic two-person scenes.
The writer relies heavily on dialogue to tell the story, but the dialogue is one of the script’s weaker aspects. Every character speaks in lengthy, florid monologues, but none of the characters have separate voices. Young or old, male or female, they all sound like the exact same person. In the more dramatic scenes, the dialogue has the tendency to descend into melodramatic histrionics, making the characters seem shrill and irritating instead of sympathetic and interesting.
Laura, Lila, and Tom get a fair amount of development, but it’s hard to take a deep interest in their love triangle. Laura’s portrayed as the story’s protagonist, but ironically, many of the harsh things Lila says about her in the end are true. She’s selfish, whiny, and unable to move past a relationship that ended years ago (despite a few flings in between). These qualities make it very difficult to sympathize with her current plan to passive-aggressively destroy Lila and Tom’s wedding. It’s never clear whether or not she’s doing the right thing, and even if she is, it’s for the wrong reasons.
Conversely, Lila and Tom are not effective as, respectively, the villain or the love interest. Lila’s portrayed as the wrong choice for no other reason than her wealth and her good looks, despite the fact that those things aren’t inherently bad and she has a number of good qualities (intelligence, humor, humility) to balance these “flaws.” On the other hand, Tom’s indecision is manifested solely through staring quietly and not expressing his thoughts. It’s hard to tell whether or not he’s truly undecided, and it’s never clear if he’s marrying Lila for the wrong reasons or if that’s just Laura’s interpretation.
The supporting characters might as well not exist. Weesie, Tripler, Pete, Jake, and the entire Hayes family do nothing but provide filler between the drama of the story’s central love triangle. The writer could have used the three romantic relationships to counterpoint Tom and Lila and/or Tom and Laura; instead, these characters mostly gather together to gossip about Laura, Tom, and Lila. The writer provides very little depth or insight into their relationships. Worse than that, she does little to give dimension to the characters themselves besides assigning them occupations.