Author: Caprice Crane & Anouska Chydzik-Bryson
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Writer’s Potential: 3
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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.
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.
Posted by D. B. Bates on May 3, 2009 12:23 PM