Posts in: May 11th, 2010

My Tutor

Author: Mark A. Altman & Steve Kriozere

Genre: Comedy

Storyline: 2

Dialogue: 2

Characterization: 1

Writer’s Potential: 2

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A nerdy high school student and his obnoxious playboy father both fall for the same woman: the student’s French tutor.


Nerdy high school senior JOSH (18) is on the Mexican island of South Padre for spring break, with his obnoxious and equally nerdy pals STEVE and KYLE. While Kyle wanders around videotaping attractive women in string bikinis, Steve attempts to flirt with them but invariably makes an obscene reference to pornography, offending the women. Josh mostly stands with them in humiliated silence. The humiliation gets worse when Josh discovers his father, HANK, is at the same bar, doing Jello shots off a sexy local woman. It’s quickly revealed that Hank is a Joe Francis-like sleaze merchant whose highly successful Girls Gone Loco line of DVDs has made him rich beyond his wildest dreams. Steve and Kyle think Josh’s dad is the coolest. Josh disagrees. He tries to excuse himself to study for an important French exam he’ll have to take once he returns to school. Hank tries to talk Josh out of it, but Josh knows that if he fails French—as he is right now—he’ll lose his acceptance to Stanford and end up in community college. Steve and Kyle insist Josh stay with them and party the night away with Hank. A montage of photos showing all of them (except sourpuss Josh) having a night of drunken debauchery follows.

Josh returns to school, exhausted and mildly hungover. He fails the French exam. Steve and Kyle wonder why he took French to begin with, when he’s already practically fluent in Spanish. Steve realizes Josh took the class to get close to JENNY, a beautiful girl he’s had a crush on for years. Unfortunately, she’s dating COLIN, the school lacrosse star. Josh comes home angry. Hank hasn’t gotten out of bed for two days, attributing it to jet lag (even though there’s only a two-hour time difference). Hank notices Josh’s bad mood and wonders if he can help. Josh lashes out about Hank forcing him to party. Josh has one shot left—the final exam. If he can’t pass it with a B+ or higher, he fails the class. Hank declares he’s proud of Josh and that he shouldn’t give up on himself. Then, he watches TV. A traffic report by JANE HARRISON (late 30s) is on. He watches for a few moments before hurling his breakfast at the screen. It’s soon revealed that this is Josh’s mother and Hank’s ex-wife, whom Hank divorced when he caught her cheating on him.

The next morning, Josh wakes to the sound of the doorbell ringing. CLAIRE (late 20s and beautiful) is at the door. Josh mistakes her for a call girl, insulting Claire. Hank introduces her as an au pair. She’s shocked to find her chair is 18 years instead of 18 months. Hank asks if she speaks French, and when she says yes, he orders her to teach it to Josh. Claire initially refuses, but Hank points out that this will be the easiest job she’s ever had. Naturally, his obnoxious tone and rampant sexism turns Claire off, but Josh apologizes on Hank’s behalf, and Claire is impressed by his eloquence and humility. She agrees to take the job. At school, Steve and Kyle immediately want to know if Claire is hot. Jenny passes by, saying “hi” to Josh, who immediately reads way too much into the simple greeting. Steve and Kyle use the distraction to invite themselves over for band practice and video games. Josh snaps out of it, telling them he needs to study. As soon as Josh leaves, Steve and Kyle agree to show up at Josh’s unannounced. In the parking lot, MIRANDA approaches Josh tentatively. She tells him it’s her 18th birthday, invites him to her party, and pulls up her top, asking if she thinks Hank would approve, now that she’s 18. Josh says he doesn’t know, so she asks him to find out and bring Hank and his camera crew if they deem her worthy. Josh is baffled.

At home, Claire is annoyed that Josh is late. She immediately takes Josh to see Breathless, the Godard film. Claire explains that in order to speak French, he must understand what it means to be French. At first, Josh finds the film confusing, but he starts to warm up to it. Their talking annoys a patron, who shushes them. Josh insults the patron in French, but unfortunately, the patron knows the language and has an usher throw them out before the end. Josh apologizes to Claire. He asks her how the movie ends. She tells him the characters in the film had passion, not love, so they couldn’t stay together in the end. Josh thinks she speaks from personal experience, and she promptly changes the subject. At home, they find Hank desperately trying to impress Claire by cooking a variety of French dishes. Claire reveals she’s not actually French—she’s French-Canadian, although her parents are from Nice. She’s surprised that Hank has heard of Nice. He explains his ex-wife wanted to go there on a vacation, and he still sounds bitter.

Claire is impressed by Hank’s cooking. Hank tells her he once wanted to open his own restaurant, but Jane got pregnant, so he had to put the money to less risky use. Steve and Kyle show up at the house, desperate to meet Claire. Josh doesn’t want to let them in, but they convince him. The guys notice Hank flirting with Claire. Later, while playing video games in the basement, Steve and Kyle urge him to make a move before Hank does. Josh thinks they’re crazy, but they make him see that all the signs are there. Upstairs, Claire helps Hank do the dishes. She’s surprised he doesn’t have servants. Hank explains that he didn’t want Josh to grow up having everything done for him. Downstairs, Steve and Kyle discuss Claire’s body in obscene terms. Josh tells them to cut it out, and coincidentally, she happens to have come downstairs and heard everything. She says goodnight to Josh.

The next morning, Hank is shocked to find Claire sunbathing topless next to the pool. Josh is equally surprised and leaps to the conclusion that Hank is taping her for a movie. Jane arrives and demands to know why Hank hired a stripper to hang around in front of Josh. Josh explains Claire’s role in the household, but Jane is too horrified to believe it. She tells Hank she’s come to pick up her prom dress for their upcoming high school reunion. While Hank searches the attic for it, Jane tests Claire’s French. She’s impressed. After Jane leaves, Hank invites Claire to join him and Josh for a paintballing tournament. Josh wants to study, but Hank claims he planned this weeks ago. At the tournament grounds, Josh is temporarily thrilled to learn their opponents have canceled, but it’s short-lived. Hank has found new opponents: Colin, Jenny, and their jock friends. Steve, Kyle, and Hank take the tournament way too seriously, embarrassing Josh in front of both Claire and Jenny. Claire runs off, and they quickly discover she’s an excellent paintballer. She takes down all of the people on Colin’s team except him and Jenny. Hank and Josh are both impressed by Claire. They all decide to split up, with one group covering the flag and the other going after the remaining opponents. Josh strongly suggests Claire join his team, so Hank shoots him “accidentally.”

Dejected, Josh wanders through the woods. He comes upon Jenny, who mentions Miranda. Josh quickly tells her he was invited to Miranda’s party, and that he’s going. Jenny is surprised. She wonders if Josh is going to take Claire, whom she mistakes for Josh’s girlfriend. Josh rolls with that, saying she’s a foreign exchange student. Later, when Hank hugs Claire for far too long, Josh shoots Hank to stop him. Hank shoots back, and the two keep shooting each other until Josh accidentally hits Jenny. At home, Claire overhears Josh talking about Miranda’s party. Later, she gives Josh a surprise gift: a suit exactly like the one worn by Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless. Josh is not convinced he can wear the suit without getting his ass kicked. Claire explains this is the next step in his French lessons: he must be French. Josh agrees to wear the suit. Claire wishes him good luck at the party. He invites her along, but she says she has a date with Hank. Josh stews all the way to the party.

Hank takes Claire to a closed miniature golf course. She’s unimpressed with the location choice, but she agrees to sweeten the deal, challenging him to a game of strip miniature golf. By the time Hank and Claire are both completely naked, police arrive to arrest them for breaking into the golf course after hours. At the party, Josh drinks excessively. Jenny flirts with him, but Josh is too busy drinking to pay much attention—until she tells him he’s cute. Colin shows up and mocks Josh’s suit. Both Jenny and Miranda think Josh looks hot. Josh picks a fight with Colin, which leads to a drinking contest rather than actual fisticuffs. As Josh gets drunker and drunker on shots of bourbon, Jenny is irritated to discover Colin is just downing shots of iced tea. She tries to help Josh, but he vomits all over her cleavage. Later, Josh incoherently babbles in French about how much he wants Claire. The police, big fans of Hank’s work, let him and Claire off with a warning. Claire is impressed. Hank confesses he hasn’t had an actual conversation with a woman since he and Jane divorced. Claire suspects he was afraid of intimacy. Hank asks Claire about her romantic history, and she explains she was in loved with a wonderful, talented man who cheated on her, so she understands Hank’s fears and reservations. Steve and Kyle desperately call Hank to pick up Josh, who won’t stop speaking French and is threatening to dive off the roof. Claire has to talk him down. Josh demands to know why Claire went out with Hank. Claire says, “Because he asked.”

Claire wakes Josh the next morning to give him a disgusting hangover cure she invented. Josh gives Hank the silent treatment. When he goes to school, he’s shocked to find everyone cheering for him—he’s now a big hero. Jenny texts Josh that she broke up with Colin and asks him to be her date to the reunion party. Steve and Kyle are thrilled about this, but Josh is still hung up on Claire. Jenny and Miranda explain to Josh that they’re organizing the 20th reunion party, and the band canceled. They invite Josh’s band to play. Colin comes around, harassing Josh—who finally stands up to him. Instead of going after Josh, Colin roughs up Jenny. Josh punches Colin, then kisses Jenny. The student body applauds. Colin warns Jenny that she shouldn’t dump him if she wants to hold on to her chances of becoming homecoming queen. Josh tells Steve and Kyle about their gig. Josh and Claire do some last-minute studying the night before the French final. Hank interrupts, asking to talk to Claire. She returns after a moment to take Josh out. She tells him to bring his books. He takes her to a private beach, so they can continue studying without distraction. They converse in French. Claire asks Josh what he wants. He doesn’t know how to say it in French, so he asks her to swim. She says she didn’t bring a bathing suit, but neither did Josh. Claire strips down.

Later, Josh gets a text from Jenny saying she got back with Colin because she wants to be homecoming queen. Josh rolls his eyes and invites Claire out on a date for Friday, the night of the reunion party. Claire can’t—she already agreed to go with Hank. Josh storms into the house, confronting Hank about competing with him. He accuses Hank of being too juvenile. Claire witnesses the argument. The next morning, she’s gone. She leaves a note saying she returned to France because she doesn’t want to keep coming between them. Hank sees the note first and immediately heads for the airport. Josh sees this and is suspicious. He finds the note and confronts Hank in the driveway. Josh wants to go, but he has to take his final. Hank informs Josh that he canceled all his credit cards and wishes him luck. While Josh takes his final, Hank is detained at the airport for having a gun on his person. It turns out to be a paintball gun, and Hank realizes Josh planted it. After the final, Josh races to the airport. Steve and Kyle have made all the preparations for Josh. They paid for it by selling Hank’s Ferrari on eBay at a steep discount. After all of Hank’s delays, the father and son end up on the same flight.

In Paris, Josh steals Hank’s taxi. Hank gets in a cab and bribes the driver to follow Josh. They search the Cité Universitaire for Claire, but neither finds her. Eventually, they’re tossed out by security guards. Dejected, Josh and Hank reconvene to share their misery over crepes. At a park, they both spot Claire. She apologizes to both of them, tells them how great they are, but that she had to get back together with her ex. While Hank and Josh plead with her, they both keep shoving an annoying mime out of the way. It turns, out the mime is her ex. When they insult his chosen art, a team of ninja-like mimes come out of the woodwork and beat the hell out of Josh and Hank. Claire takes them back to her apartment to attend to them. Hank apologizes to Josh, saying he needs Claire more than Josh because the best years of Josh’s life are yet to come, but Hank’s are long past. Claire reminds Josh of Breathless—they had passion, but not love, and now it’s over. Hank and Josh thank Claire for everything. She offers to let them stay, but Hank opts to bring Jane in from the U.S. to take her to Nice. Jane takes him to a topless beach, thrilling him.

Josh returns to school to discover he has aced his final and will be going to Stanford. Four months later, he arrives for orientation. Right off the bat, he meets a beautiful French foreign exchange student and is smitten. She’s thrilled he can communicate with her in her own language. A month later, Hank and Jane arrive for parents’ weekend. Hank gets hammered with a frat while Jane waits impatiently and Josh dances with the French girl.


My Tutor aspires to be a 1980s-style teen sex comedy, which makes sense because it’s a remake of one. Unfortunately, this is a brainless, ragingly unfunny example of a genre that can be quite entertaining and endearing if done properly. The horribly inconsistent characters, unfocused story, and awful dialogue all contribute to the script’s overall failure. As written, it merits a pass.

The script’s characters are, by far, its biggest liability. Their personalities are all inconsistent, swinging wildly from scene to scene. Sometimes, Josh is the intelligent, responsible kid who is deeply respectful—almost reverent—of women. He suddenly does a complete 180 to sex-crazed horndog without any believable reason. Not even the fact that he’s 18 makes such wild personality deviations work—it’s just the writers sacrificing characterization to go for easy jokes. Josh’s arc relies entirely on Claire’s perception that Breathless will teach him how to be French, which is a bizarre turn of events considering the film is about a character who spends his life imitating American star Humphrey Bogart. The only good thing to come from this is that 0.1% of teenagers in the audience will have any idea what Breathless is.

Hank is an even worse case. He’s an obnoxious, drunken manchild who runs around videotaping underage girls taking their tops off, frequently having sex with these women—but, deep down, he’s really a sweetheart. The writers try for the limp (so to speak) justification that he felt so betrayed by his wife’s cheating, it created intimacy issues. All that’s well and good, except for the fact that he built his sleazy empire before the divorce. Whether or not he was actually having sex with his many teenage victims at the time is never said, but it’d actually be more interesting if he were that much of a hypocrite. Instead, the writers try too hard to make him a nice guy, because they finally realize—late in the script—that it makes no sense that Claire would be attracted to both sensitive Josh and lout Hank. Unfortunately, Hank works better as a stereotype. The wounded puppy dog routine would only fit with his personality if he were using it to trick Claire into sleeping with him, but this is not the case.

And then there’s Claire, the object of their mutual affection. Forget how creepy and disturbing it is for father and son to lust after and do battle for the same woman (the script certainly doesn’t notice how off-putting and unseemly this conflict is)—she’s another character whose personality is sacrificed both for lame jokes and for the lamer plot. In her first scene, she’s portrayed as an articulate, perceptive woman who sees right through Hank’s sleazy machinations and admires Josh’s kindness and sensitivity. Two scenes later, she’s sunbathing topless in front of them and acting like she can’t figure out why Josh is suddenly so nervous and Hank is leering. The writers spend the entire script pounding her into different shapes so she’ll fit the story they’ve created, and it’s never exactly clear why either characters fall in love with her. Lusting after her makes perfect sense, but the writers never develop her well enough for either character to fall for her. She’s simply an idealized woman who alternately loves old French films as much as strip golf.

The weak story is presented like awkward sketch comedy, never generating narrative momentum as it limps to the finish line. Each gag is virtually self-contained, giving the story an unfocused feel reminiscent of its inconsistent characters. The first act sets up one conflict (Josh’s need to pass his French class), the second act pushes it in another direction (Josh and Hank vying for Claire) while mostly ignoring the French class, and the third act brings it to a head as they race to France to fight for her love. In between, the writers shoehorn a lot of high school material into the story, but all of it feels like padding. The writers never make it seem important to Josh to stand up to Colin. He just does it because that’s the sort of thing that usually happens in a teen sex comedy. None of the high school subplots pay off in the third act, either. Jenny and Colin stop mattering somewhere in the second act, then disappear. This leads to a laughable resolution that leaves teen audiences with the message that they should forgive partners who cheat on them and try to make it work. The script is just too much of a mess to succeed on any level.

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Margin Call

Author: J.C. Chandor

Genre: Drama

Storyline: 4

Dialogue: 3

Characterization: 4

Writer’s Potential: 4

Jump to: [Synopsis] [Comments]




When a mathematician discovers a revenue shortfall, a group of Wall Street investors must pull an all-nighter in order to figure out how to solve the crisis.


Talking heads on the radio announce the trading day is about to close, and word around Wall Street is that Goldstone Sterns Investment Bank plans to lay off 5000 employees. On the trading floor of Goldston Sterns, risk assessment analyst PETER SULLIVAN (27) and his buddy, SETH (23), watch in terror as human resource personnel sweeps the floor. An HR person taps Peter on the shoulder, asking if his name is Eric Dale. Peter breathes a sigh of relief as he tells her no. ERIC (mid-40s) is his boss. He’s led into a conference room, where HR lawyer LAUREN BRATBERG waits. She offers him a small severance package and gives him 24 hours to think it over. She also explains that, despite his 19 years of loyal service, for security purposes she’s disabling his phone and computer. Eric is shocked and humiliated. He asks about the work he’s in the middle of right now. Lauren explains they have a contingency plan and asks a security guard to escort Eric to his office to collect his things. Eric’s boss, WILL, greets Eric sadly, apologizing for what happened. Eric asks whose decision it was: SAM ROGERS or SARAH ROBERTSON? Will won’t answer. Eric assumes it was Sarah.

Peter and Seth say their goodbyes to Eric. Eric asks Peter to walk him outside. Eric gives Peter a USB drive and says it’s something he was working on and couldn’t finish. He trusts Peter to finish it, but he warns him to be careful. Peter is baffled. Will meets with Sam (mid-60s), who has just learned his dog is dying. Will isn’t sure how to react. He simply informs Sam that the remaining trading floor personnel are ready for him. Sam steps out on the floor, which looks like a ghost town. The employees have been reduced by 80%. Sam gives a rousing speech to the remaining employees, saying they survived because they’re better, and GS will weather this storm. Down on the street, Eric tries to use his phone. They’ve already deactivated it. He sees Sarah across the street and confronts her. She says nothing in response. Eric drops the phone and storms away. Seth and Peter sit on the trading floor, trying to recover. Seth invites Peter out for a drink, but Peter tells him he needs to stay and keep working. Once he’s alone, Peter looks at the hard drive Eric left for him. He’s stunned by what he discovers. He tries calling Eric, but the phone is disabled. Instead, he calls Seth, who is drinking with other employees, including Will. He orders Seth to bring Will back to the office. Seth protests that it’s after 10, but the tone of Peter’s voice tells him it’s serious. Seth and Will arrive at the office. Peter explains what’s happening to them: their investments are starting to test volatility boundaries, and if things start heading in the wrong direction, the bank stands to lose just over $1 trillion.

Will calls Eric at home, but he isn’t there. His wife politely takes a message. She doesn’t know he’s been fired. Will calls a car for Peter and Seth, ordering them to go find Eric. Will calls Sam, who’s reluctant to return to work. When Will says this isn’t something he can e-mail, Sam knows it’s bad and comes in. Peter and Seth wander aimlessly, failing to find Eric. They talk about the obscene amounts of money their superiors make and speculate on what the real bosses make. Sam meets with Will, who relays in detail everything that happened between Eric and Peter, and what Peter just explained to him about the bank’s financial situation. Sam wants to know where Peter is. Will calls Peter and Seth and orders them to return to the office. They get stuck in traffic, but Will is breathing down their necks, so they abandon the car and take the subway. Will and Sam meet Peter and Seth at the elevator and lead them into the executive board room, where Sarah, JARED COHEN (mid-40s, one of the top dogs of the company), and several lawyers wait. Sam explains everything yet again. Sarah asks about Peter’s credentials. He explains that he’s, essentially, a rocket scientist. He entered the financial world because it pays better. Their lawyers verify Peter’s numbers. Jared asks how long it would take them to quietly sell the bad mortgage securities. Sam says it’ll be at least four weeks, during which time they will continue to lose money and have to sell more.

Based on Jared’s line of reasoning, Sam realizes Jared wants to simply sell everything, all at once, firing the first shot on a tanking market. Sarah asks for time to confirm the numbers. Jared insists that they find Eric, because he’s the only one other than them who knows anything about this. Will takes Peter and Seth up to a roof landing on the 45th floor. After waxing philosophically about why people feel anxious on rooftops (which he attributes to people fearing they might jump rather than that they might fall), Will explains to Peter and Seth that Jared’s planning to dump everything. Peter and Seth are shocked that they can even do this. Will explains that if they know something in advance of the other banks on Wall Street, they can capitalize on it and lose virtually nothing. It doesn’t matter if everyone else loses everything. Seth pointedly asks Will what he does with all his money. Will thinks about it and explains, surprising himself by how much he spends on booze and strippers. They see a corporate helicopter arriving on the helipad above. Will realizes the truly important executives have arrived. Sarah arrives at Sam’s office to tell him and Jared what she and the other lawyers have uncovered. She says everything Peter calculated is accurate. He killed their cash cow, which was built on a faulty equation, and the only choice is to sell.

Jared brings Sam and Sarah to the elevators. He’s called CEO JOHN TULD. They reconvene with Will, Peter, and Seth, and they all head up to the top floor. Jared sternly tells the others to tell the truth at all costs. Not even Peter is smart enough to lie his way out of this. They all file into Tuld’s board room. He’s a surprisingly genial man. He greets them kindly and asks Peter to explain to him what happened. Peter goes through it all again. Tuld considers all the information and tells them all that there are three ways to succeed on Wall Street: be first, be smarter, or cheat. Tuld refuses to cheat, and although he has a lot of smart people working under him, he thinks it would be smarter to be first. Jared is pleased that Tuld is backing his plan. Tuld asks Sam how they would do it. Sam explains that everybody has to be on this, and they need to work fast, because by noon word will be out, and what they’re trying to sell will be worthless. Worse than that, the SEC will start poking their noses into what they’re doing. Sam warns Tuld that if they do this, they are killing the mortgage market, and they will lose the buyers they’re selling to forever. Tuld is fine with that, so long as their bank weathers the storm. He realizes that this is the start of their troubles, not the end, but when Sam points out that it’s only the start because Tuld is starting it, Tuld explains that he’d prefer to start than finish. Tuld asks about Eric. When he realizes nobody has found him, he sends his private security team to track him down.

Downstairs, Eric’s wife calls Will. She says he’s come home, but he refuses to speak to them. Knowing that Tuld’s men are on their way, Will drags Seth with him to warn Eric. Tuld explains to Sarah that her head is on the chopping block for this. She’s disappointed, but she understands. He asks her to stay until the markets close. Sarah goes to her office and tries to cry, but she can’t. She’s too numb. Peter gets coffee from a street vendor. A PRETTY GIRL passes by who he seems to know. Peter asks about her father. She half-jokingly asks if Peter has any good tips for her. He says, with stone-faced seriousness, “Sell.” She’s alarmed by his demeanor. Will and Seth arrive at Eric’s fancy townhouse. They explain everything that’s happening to him and warn him that Tuld’s men are coming, and either he can accept their offer of a massive bonus in exchange for silence, or he can prepare for them to fight him on his meager severance package. Eric laments his career, recalling his days as an engineer, building bridges to actually help people instead of coming up with equations to screw people. Will and Seth leave just as Tuld’s men arrive.

Tuld offers reluctant Sam a massive bonus for his cooperation. Sam reluctantly accepts it. He goes down to smoke a cigarette and finds Peter, still outside. Peter asks if they’re all getting fired. Sam assumes they are. Peter says he knows Sam’s son, and he’s a nice person. He asks if Sam has told his son about what’s happening. Sam says it didn’t even occur to him. Sam asks about Peter’s father. Another helicopter lands on the roof. Peter asks if he’s ever done anything like this before. Sam says no. Peter wonders if it’s the right thing to do. Neither of them are sure. Sam doesn’t want to think about the mess it will create. Sadly, they both go upstairs. In the executive bathroom, Sam bawls his eyes out. He tries to stop himself when he hears someone enter, but he can’t. It’s Jared. Seth explains that he knows he’s fired, but this is all he’s ever wanted to do. Jared apologizes with surprising sincerity. Eric arrives and meets with Sarah. After some awkward small talk, Eric agrees to take the bonus. The remaining employees gather for their morning meeting. Sam lays everything on the line, reluctantly telling them that what they’re doing will destroy their own jobs, but they have to do it to save Goldstone Sterns. Tuld arrives to give a similarly inspirational speech. A montage follows, showing the employees selling quickly, then congratulating themselves when they succeed. That night, Sam buries his dead dog in the backyard of his former home. His ex-wife, MARY, confronts him, fearing he’s a burglar. When she sees it’s Sam, she tells him he doesn’t live here anymore. Sam explains about the dog and tells her this was where she belonged. Mary leaves Sam to continuing digging.


Margin Call attempts to humanize the architects of the 2008 stock market crash. Unfortunately, although the writer creates situations designed to elicit sympathy, the writer fails to create characters complex enough to be sympathetic. The script isn’t much more than redundant scenes of people talking in board rooms, explaining and re-explaining the reasons for the crash, which might have been compelling if the dialogue weren’t so awful. As written, it merits a pass.

The first act rushes past the character introductions and goes straight to the layoffs, evoking an atmosphere of fear among the bankers. Eric’s firing, his ominous warning to Peter, and Peter’s subsequent discover of big problems serves as an excellent setup for a thriller that never arrives. After his discovery, the story settles into an annoyingly repetitive pattern of introducing new characters—each higher up the corporate ladder—to explain the exact same story to. The explanations are worded almost identically, and the reactions of each person is virtually the same. In other words, the script just spins its wheels for almost its entire 92-page length. The writer never makes any real effort to build any suspense in what’s happening to the characters’ jobs and place of employment. Even the subplot about the mysteriously missing Eric lacks suspense, because nobody really cares about him as a person. They only care about what he knows.

In the third act, the writer attempts in vain to paint these characters with a sympathetic brush. However, they aren’t really characters. With the exception of Sam’s cloying symbolic dog, the writer hardly reveals a thing about these characters beyond their jobs at the bank. They exist to dispense information to the other characters (and, by extension, the audience). The writer creates a perfect opportunity to show that these people who are demonized by the news media and the government have lives beyond their jobs, have goals and desires that aren’t simply rooted in greed, and maybe spend a few minutes considering the ethical dilemma of their choice. Unfortunately, the writer never capitalizes on this—the only ethical dilemma anyone’s worried about is how much money they’ll lose, which makes it extremely difficult for the audience to feel any response other than rage when they start having tearful breakdowns about losing their jobs—the same jobs that they, by their own admission, sabotaged by going too far to mess with the system.

The fact that the characters are so weak is a huge problem, because this is a barely a story. It’s mostly people sitting around trading floors, offices, and board rooms, bluntly explaining everything. Without strong characters to make what they’re discussing compelling, it’s hard to get invested in anything that’s happening in the story. Adding insult to injury is the dialogue. Every character—regardless of age, gender, or background—has the exact same speech pattern. The writer never uses the dialogue as an opportunity to reveal these characters’ personalities, even though it’s the only way to distinguish them when they don’t do anything but talk. They all seem exactly the same: obsessively focused on their jobs and on how to wriggle out of the crisis at hand.

Peter and Sam are the only characters who come close to having any sort of ethical judgment. They are both aware that what needs to be done is wrong, and the writer seems to be trying to make a statement about the fact that they know it’s wrong but do it anyway. However, this muddles the attempts to portray the other characters—the ones who lack such ethical guidance—as sympathetic. If the audience is supposed to feel betrayed when Peter and Sam simply go to work and do what they’re told, how are they supposed to feel when Seth starts bawling uncontrollably and Sarah attempts to have an emotional breakdown but is too numb to cry? Maybe this is difficult to determine because of how poorly the characters are developed.

This is a hugely problematic script that has noble intentions but fails to achieve what it’s aiming for. Although it’s a relevant story, it fails to tell audiences anything they don’t already know. It’s hard to imagine any amount of slick filmmaking or great acting will make this script work.

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