10A - 10B (a.k.a. Compulsion)

Author: Floyd Byars
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Mystery
Storyline: 1
Dialogue: 4
Characterization: 3
Writer’s Potential: 2

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A detective investigating an actress’s disappearance uncovers the strange story of two psychologically unstable neighbors.


In voiceover, AMY describes her childhood (dramatized in flashbacks): her refrigerator was always full, and left to her own devices, Amy would fix herself a snack and watch her favorite show. The show stars SAFFRON, who explains in voiceover the danger of the craft service table. Saffron’s mom scolds young Saffron for going anywhere near it. In the present, Amy bakes and cooks to her heart’s content. Next door, Saffron’s apartment has no occupant, but the mementoes of her childhood career and the décor paint a picture of a depressed woman. Back in Amy’s apartment, DETECTIVE RANDALL knocks on the door. He wants to ask some questions about Saffron, who’s been reported missing. Amy offers Randall the opportunity to sample her baked goods. While he eats, she tells Randall they had dinner a week ago and Saffron seemed fine. Randall asks if anyone else had been by to see her, but Amy reports that Saffron had no friends and no interest in men or relationships. Amy was the last person to see Saffron alive.

After indulging in some more of Amy’s cooking, Randall tells her he may be by to ask some more questions. He goes next door to Saffron’s apartment to look around. He finds uncashed residual checks, a bunch of prescription bottles from the same doctor (Randall pockets one of the pill bottles). Last, he looks at her word processor, which has a diatribe about the relationship between food and sex and how both are evil. Amy pops into the apartment to let Randall know about Saffron’s intention to reinvent herself as a writer. Randall asks if she received a lot of phone calls. Amy says she did, but she treated callers like intruders. Amy diverts the subject to the story of her moving into the apartment. In flashback, we see her looking at the apartment with a real estate agent and another couple. Amy tells them she wants to tear down all the walls and turn the apartment into little more than a giant kitchen. The others try to talk her out of it.

On the front stoop, Amy and Saffron meet for the first time. Amy tells herself Saffron is a twig with an eating disorder who needs good food; Saffron, on the other hand, sees slightly rotund Amy as a disgusting pig. Saffron works on a screenplay while Amy cooks. Amy flashes on an earlier time, when a slightly heavier Amy prepares to move out of the large suburban home she shares with her (now ex-)husband, FRED. They get into an argument over her cooking, which leads to an argument about what utensils and appliances Amy can take. Back in her new apartment-kitchen, Amy tells herself she needs to figure out a way to lose weight but still continue to cook. Meanwhile, Saffron listens to a VoiceMail from a development exec, telling her the screenplay she submitted is too personal and feminine. Saffron starts to write a nasty e-mail in response when Amy rings the doorbell, plate in hand. Saffron has no interest in the food, but Amy insists she not only take it, but try a bite. Saffron does so just to get her out of the apartment, but it’s too late — Amy recognizes Saffron as the child starlet she once was. Once Saffron gets Amy to leave, she spits out the food, and dumps the rest of the plate down the garbage disposal.

In her own apartment, Amy starts eating. She pigs out until she remembers the diet, and then throws away all the fattening food in the apartment. Saffron, meanwhile, recites a scene from Chekhov but is disappointed by her reading. While Amy shops for groceries, Saffron goes for an audition but is rejected. Later, Saffron’s depressed when Amy arrives with Italian sausage and peppers for Saffron. Saffron refuses to eat, but once again, Amy is relentless. This time, Amy walks the food into the apartment and sticks it in Saffron’s refrigerator. She investigates the fridge and freezer and finds Amy doesn’t keep much food. In her own apartment, Amy seethes as she prepares calimari and oysters Rockefeller. Amy continues to cook various dishes for Saffron, all of which go into the garbage disposal. Amy tells herself she’ll keep cooking until she stumbles on something Saffron likes. Eventually, Amy catches Saffron in the hall with a garbage bag. When Amy notices her food in it, Saffron apologizes and says she couldn’t eat it all. Amy leads Saffron back into the apartment and forces her to eat it. Saffron attempts to do so, but ends up vomiting in the bathroom. This angers Amy, who gets more aggressive in demanding Saffron eat.

Saffron remembers, in flashback, going to a Hollywood party at age 12 with her mother (SHARON) to meet a sleazy producer, BOB. While Sharon wanders off to mingle, Bob molests Saffron. When she attempts to scream, Bob stuffs p√¢té into her mouth. Later, Saffron begs Sharon to take her home. Sharon refuses, telling Saffron they’re here for her career. Bob comes after Saffron for more, but she runs from him, accidentally pushing his three-year-old niece into a pool. The entire party breaks up and Saffron is treated horribly by everyone, including Sharon. In her apartment in the pseudo-present, it’s as if Saffron told Amy all of this. Amy’s moved as Saffron wonders how she can eat when she feels so dirty. Amy goes shopping for a special meal for Saffron — comfort food. She leaves it with Saffron, who immediately vomits it into the toilet. Amy draws a bath for Saffron as she apologizes for what she assumes was bad produce. Amy starts washing Saffron, then lays her in bed. Amy touches Saffron, whose body language suggests she likes the feel. Amy starts fooling around with her, and Saffron gets turned on until Amy’s hand reaches between her legs, which snap shut. Amy presses on, trying to make Saffron feel as comfortable as possible.

Then, she shoves a clump of potatoes into Saffron’s mouth. Horrified, Saffron throws Amy out. In the actual present, Detective Randall receives a phone call from his partner, MARSHALL, who’s investigating at Amy’s old house. Fred has told Marshall that Amy killed the family pet, a parrot, and fed it to him. This led directly to their divorce. Amy, having heard Randall’s half of the conversation, tells him her side of the story, which is shown in flashbacks. Amy and Fred have a loving, incredibly sexual relationship. The parrot, SEBASTIAN, is essentially a mascot for their lovemaking. Fred loves Amy’s cooking as much as the sex, but as time passes, he grows tired of both and becomes more focused on work. Amy continues to cook more elaborate and complicated dishes, but Fred refuses to eat them, so Amy balloons up eating and sobbing. Amy begins to accuse Fred of cheating on her, which Fred adamantly denies. The accusations escalate when Fred admits he doesn’t want her cooking because his job keeps offering big lunches. Enraged by what she pereceives as infidelity, Amy kills Sebastian and cooks him in an elaborate stew. They divorce, and the JUDGE tells Fred there’s no evidence it was actually Sebastian and as such, he grants the divorce but gives Amy a huge settlement. Amy tells the same story to Saffron, who’s disgusted by the sexual content and the amount of food involved.

Later, as Amy’s leaving Saffron’s empty apartment, she hears Saffron’s therapist, DR. VOIGHT, on the answering machine. Amy picks up and chastises Voight for doing such a poor job of helping her. Voight says he’s concerned — Saffron stopped going to therapy and stopped taking her medication, so he’s afraid she’ll need to be institutionalized again. Amy harps on “again,” wondering what he means and why she was institutionalized. Voight refuses to tell, so Amy verbally abuses him and insists he leave Saffron alone. Amy drags Saffron to an audition. Saffron doesn’t want to go, but Amy insists — Saffron is perfect for this part, and her agent said they requested her by name. When she gets in the room, Saffron discovers the producer is Bob. She prepares to leave, but Amy enters the room, blocking her path. Saffron freaks out, so the casting people help her away. Saffron leaves without Amy. Down the street, she notices the building where Fred works. After considering it, Saffron enters the building.

Amy goes shopping for more comfort food for Saffron when she comes upon p√¢té. She flashes on her mental picture of the story Saffron told about Bob, and it overwhelms her. Amy goes to Saffron’s apartment and admits defeat — there’s nothing Saffron can eat. Saffron offers herself to Amy. Amy’s suddenly uneasy at Saffron’s unbridled sexuality. Amy notices Saffron is popping pills. Amy slaps the pill out of her mouth, and Saffron collapses, unable to move. Amy carries her to the bathroom, draws a bath, places Saffron into the tub. As she lets Saffron relax, Amy overhears another call on the answering machine — it’s Fred, ranting about Amy and implying he and Saffron have started sleeping together.

Amy returns to the bathroom and asks Saffron why she didn’t tell her. Saffron says she wanted Amy to hate her, so she’d leave her alone. Welling up with tears, Amy slits Saffron’s throat. Later, Amy imagines the ghost of Saffron coming to her apartment and cooking for Amy. Saffron’s ghost announces that she’ll forgive Amy, and after the meal, Amy will forgive Saffron, too.


10A - 10B wants to be a study of two opposite characters forced to live next to each other. It combines an aimless, nonlinear plot with a mystery that never quite matters. These problems would be more forgivable if the script actually dug deep into the characters it thinks it’s studying. Instead, by the end, audiences will leave frustrated and disappointed, wondering why these characters do the things they do, and even worse, wondering why they should care. As written, the script merits a pass.

The central problem is the character of Amy. She’s shrill, overbearing, obnoxious, hypocritical, and ultimately psychopathic, but the writer never bothers to clue us in on why. Despite murdering Saffron at the end, Amy is portrayed as the protagonist, but she’s impossible to empathize with. Saffron’s traumatic past allows us to understand why she’s so depressed and damaged, but for some reason, Amy doesn’t get the same development. The only things we learn about her backstory reinforce how crazy she is, without ever making us understand what led her down this path. Since the audience won’t be able to relate to her, they will find her insufferable.

The unfocused, largely incoherent plot tries to build itself around the mystery of Saffron’s disappearance. The writer fails to make this central mystery compelling, so there’s not much to drive what little story there is. The first and second acts are little more than aimless scenes depicting Amy cooking for Saffron and Saffron vomiting, sprinkled with some flashbacks and a gratuitous lesbian relationship between the two. The third act does try to tie together what little narrative exists, by forcing Saffron into a hard-to-believe sexual relationship with Fred, which gives Amy the motivation to murder Saffron. This leads to a deeply unsatisfying resolution in which, apparently, Amy gets away with the murder and dreams that Saffron would be perfectly fine with getting her throat slit.

Because every moment in the thin story revolves around this character, and she’s not empathetic and believable, the entire script fails. Even with an A-list actress giving an award-worthy performance, it’s hard to believe the character of Amy can work as written.

Posted by D. B. Bates on April 25, 2009 9:02 AM