Friday, March 13, 2009


Genre: Thriller
Synopsis: Two women are held hostage in a prison-like farmhouse.
About: On the 2008 Black List with 14 votes
Writer: Misha Green

This will be less a review and more a stamp of approval since I actually read Sunflower a long time ago. I don't know why it slipped my mind when I was making my top 10, but when I expanded to 25, I spotted it and was like, "Why the hell didn't I include Sunflower?" It's probably for the same reason that's in the back of your minds right now: The title fucking sucks! When I was reading all the 2008 Black List scripts, I kept burying Sunflower every time I'd come to it because seriously, who the hell wants to read a script called "Sunflower?" Finally, when it was down to that and some script about a midget trying to come to terms with his South African descent, I threw up my hands and screamed, "Fine! I'll read Sunflower!" Thank the Gods of screenwriting that I did.

This is from memory so I apologize if I get the details wrong. Basically, Sunflower is about a guy keeping a girl hostage in a farm house out in the middle of nowhere. He's rigged the place with Level 16 super high tech security so that when he leaves for work (he's a professor) there's no way for her to escape. What sets Sunflower apart from other films like it is that the professor then kidnaps a second girl who he imprisons along with the first. He makes it quite obvious that only one of these girls is staying for the longhaul. Then, instead of it being about a girl trying to escape her captor, it becomes about two girls fighting each other for their lives. Green milks this conflict for everything it's got and the result is so relentless you keep saying to yourself, "There's no way she can keep this up. There's no way she can keep this up." But the story never slows down. It's awesome.

If there's a knock against the script, it's the controversial "twist" ending that had many crying foul. And I admit it doesn't entirely work. But to me the script is so technically sound, not going with the twist and playing it safe would still result in a great film. Or you can pull a Hollywood and just shoot four different endings and see which one tests best. The ending didn't bother me but I can understand how it would others. Decide for yourself...

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Sunflower: Sunflower is the perfect example of why it's so important to throw a new twist into a tired genre. When I started reading the script, I thought I knew exactly where it was going. Guy holds girl hostage, girl plans to escape, guy catches her mid-plan, guy makes it more difficult for girl to escape, girl comes up with second plan...etc., etc. We've seen it a thousand times before. But the second he brought in the second girl, I realized I had no idea where the script was going. And I was so...excited. Because a reader reads so much derivative material, it's rare that he come across something that actually surprises him. Find an inventive twist on a tried-and-true genre to give Hollywood (and the audience) something they've never seen before.