Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Genre: Romantic Comedy
Synopsis: A suburban couple give each other permission to sleep with someone else.
About: Karen McCullah Lutz is the writer of Legally Blonde and Bride Wars. Permission was sold to CBS Films.
Writer: Karen McCullah Lutz

It's an interesting and intriguing idea for a movie. There was the famous (or infamous) Robert Redford/Woody Harrelson film "Indecent Proposal" where Redford pays Harrelson a million dollars to sleep with his wife (a pre-surgery pre-Ashton pre-twittering Demi Moore). There was the Curb Your Enthusiasm season where Cheryl (definition of Milf) Hines agrees to let Larry David sleep with someone before their 20th anniversary. And then there's "the list" that we all make with our girlfriends/boyfriends. You know, the "5 Celebrities That I'll Let You Sleep With" list? By the way, I know someone wrote a script based on this idea. If anyone has it, send it my way.

Anyway, I know those lists are a joke but I always wonder, what if the chance really arose? Would she go through with it? I'd like to think no because...well, you know, I'm ME! But I'm not sure any girl could pass up a night with their dream man. That's what makes a premise like Permission so intriguing. A married couple gives each other permission to sleep with another person. Do they go through with it? Do they do what's right or do they do what's right now?

Unfortunately, the majority of Permission takes the easy way out. The Sandra Bullock "you know everything's going to be okay in the end" route. It actually uses a nearly identical structure to Indecent Proposal in that we see the two agree to the infidelity, struggle going through with it, then battle with the consequences.

The biggest mistake Permission makes is in its lead characters, the happily married Diana and James. They're two very generic people right from the start and by the time we see any depth in them, we're 20 minutes from the end of the movie. See Diane is upset when she finds out that her friends have slept with dozens of men. She, on the other hand, has never had that crazy drunken one-night sexcapade. So she gets this idea that her and her husband should allow each other to sleep with other people (naturally. I mean, it makes sense to me).

At first James is angry. He loves his wife. He doesn't think there's anything wrong with their marriage. And he's not sure how to take it. Luckily biology does the work for him. James gets permission to sleep with someone other than his wife?? Can I hear a hellz yeah?? So they fly off - him to Aspen, her to the Carribean - and engage in many late night escapades trying to bag their respective one-nighters. It's average, predictable, and not very funny storytelling.

UNTIL.... the only surprise in the script. She ends up sleeping with someone. He doesn't. I was positive they were both going to sleep with someone or only he would. So this is the only time the script held any interest for me. When James gets home and realizes what's happened, he flips out, and the final act is about Diane trying to get him back. It's a fresh take in that sense, but in the cozy fields of Romantic Comedy Land, we know everything is going to be okay in the end. And of course it is. See in reality, if you and your wife are giving each other permission to sleep with other people, you got some seriously fucked up shit going on in your marriage. That story would've been interesting to explore.

Permission should've given itself permission to be more edgy. It's a strong concept with tons of potential, but the vanilla choices kept it from being memorable.

[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Permission: One thing Permission does well is keep the action lines to a minimum. Lutz knows she's got a talky script on her hands so she doesn't clog it up with needless action description. Too many writers take time describing mundane things that don't matter. All that does is slow down the script. Only describe what absolutely needs to be described. Keep your script lean and mean and the reader will never cheat on you. Unless you give him permission of course. ;)