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Just Saw [Insert Movie Title Here]...

...or how my MFA in screenwriting ruined any chance of enjoying a movie like a normal person. If I apply what I've learned to existing films, would it have made a better film?

SPOILER WARNING: Please be advised, I plan to discuss plot points in detail so if you haven't seen the movie and don't want the surprise ruined, stop here.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Rumor Has It

Logline: A woman seeks out the man her mother had a fling with to determine if he is her father.

The Good Idea: Satisfy the long held (mistaken) belief that "The Graduate" needed a sequel and Jennifer Aniston opening a romantic comedy.

Why it didn't work.

There are two questions the movie asks which are answered very quickly and with few obstacles in the way. "Is the man my mother slept with before her wedding my father?" She finds out, yes. Next question, "Will she sleep with a man who slept with her mother and her mother before her?" Barely enough time is given to even pose the question before we see Jennifer Aniston in bed with Kevin Costner (actually just waking up alone, the morning after).

This sequence happened in roughly the first 15 minutes of Act II. So what's left? Predictability. Will her fiance find out? Yes. Will her family find out? Yes. Do we care that they will? Not really, because they're comic caricatures. Mark Ruffalo, as her fiance, is too good to believe, so we don't believe for a moment that he won't forgive her. Mena Suvari is far too giddy to be taken seriously when we meet her. Shirley Maclaine is wonderful as the acid tongued grandmother so we aren't too worried that anything can shock her or hurt her feelings. Richard Jenkins is very good in the thankless dad role who gives caring and understanding advice on cue. The bottom line is that Aniston's character acts with no consequences at stake.

Believability takes a holiday. Sure she's got a job but it never comes into play as an obstacle in that she never has to choose between finding Costner or her job.

The biggest flaw is the dialogue. Much of it is used to tell us what we already know. The audience knows more than the characters do and waiting for them to find out what we know becomes an exercise in saying, "get on with it."

In terms of pure romantic comedy structure, the end of Act II is when she loses her fiance. Unfortunately, since she is pursing Costner, he should be the one she loses. The success of a romantic comedy also hinges on having to choose between two pretty decent choices. Costner was never a serious contender for her long term affections.


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