Monday, November 16, 2009

Brad Cutter Ruined My Life Again

Genre: Comedy
Premise: (from IMDB) A successful business man is forced to relive his miserable teenage years when the cool kid from his high school is hired at his company.
About: No. 6 on my Top 25 and No. 31 on the Readers’ favorites, Brad Cutter Ruined My Life Again is a spec that sold a couple of years ago. Nussbaum is probably best known for writing and directing the smash hit short film “George Lucas In Love.” Although I’m not sure if this information is still current, Nussbaum is listed as the current director on the project, “Aaron and Sara,” another top reader script. Man, these writers on Scriptshadow are starting to get a little incestuous.
Writer: Joe Nussbaum.
Details: 113 pages (2006 draft)

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from an angry reader (you know who you are) blasting me for not having reviews up of all 25 of my Top 25 scripts. I was taken aback because the reasoning for this seemed perfectly logical to me. The Top 25 went up the day I started the blog, and clearly I couldn’t have reviewed all of the scripts on the list up to that point. So as the days went by, I’d review one of them here, review another there, or maybe read a new script that would make the list. That’s how most of them got covered. However, there were some I just never got to. Looking at it now, I realize to someone coming to Scriptshadow for the first time, this oversight seems ridiculous. They don't care about history. They want to see what this script that's ranked so highly is about! So I’m going to do my best to plug in some of these Top 25 holes over the next few weeks. We’ll start with one of my favorite comedies, Brad Cutter Ruined My Life Again.

The reason Brad Cutter works so well, is it does one of the best jobs of exploiting its premise of any script I've ever read. Too many screenplays have these great premises, then midway through, drive off into who-cares field to explore some meaningless subplot that isn't half as interesting as its hook. I’ll give you an example.

A few weeks ago, a script called “Hello, I Love You” sold. It was described as a new take on Groundhog Day. Keep in mind this is a 2007 draft, and that they may have fixed this problem since then, but in the draft, a teenage girl who hates her family makes a wish for a new one. As a result, she begins waking up with a new family every day. A clever twist is that the families she wakes up in are families from the neighborhood she’s familiar with. This allows us to see these families in a completely different light. Lots of potential for comedy *and* drama there. The problem is, she stops waking up in the new families by page 40! The script then shifts to a love story between her and her neighbor. The hook, the reason we come to see the movie, is abandoned. And while the relationship between the two is cute, we can see it in any teen movie or TV show. The premise is why we showed up in the first place. So why aren't we exploring it?

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Brad Cutter. The premise of a guy being roped back into his high school days is milked in every single scene, in every single moment, in every single line. It’s a master class in that respect. From the “cool kids’ table” to a field trip on a school bus to “Picture Day” to a face rash that looks like acne, Brad Cutter gets everything and more out of its premise. And like any good comedy script, it weaves these moments in with a nice story.

Dave Fischman had it rough in high school. He sported the greasy hair, the bad acne. The poor guy even wore head gear (parents don’t still make their children wear these things, do they?). Dave tells you straight away his feelings about those awful four years: “For me, the only good thing about high school…was that it ended.”

On the flip side, Brad Cutter had it all: the ladies, the charm, the confidence, that perfectly mussed hair that even Robert Pattinson would feel self-conscious around. Brad Cutter went to his first senior prom in eighth grade. Dave tries to give you some perspective: “I spent my own senior prom eating Hot Pockets and watching the Robocop trilogy on laser disc.”

The good news for Dave is, he grew up. And he lost the acne. And he trashed the head brace. And he got a job at a great company. Dave has found such success, in fact, that high school is but a distant memory. When he gets a tip from his boss that landing the “Just Juice” account will get him that big promotion, Dave is already eyeing the engagement ring he plans to buy his girlfriend, Leah (hmm – the writer of “George Lucas in Love” titling his lead female “Leah.” Interesting). It seems like that old high school adage about nerds is true: They really do end up having their day.

And then…

And then Brad Cutter shows up. Totally innocently. Brad’s simply looking to get his feet wet in the corporate world. In fact, Brad is hired as just another low-level employee. But that changes *immediately* when he introduces himself to the company…

Hey everybody. Great to be joining the team here. I’m sure I’ll get to know all of you a lot better in the coming days. Especially this guy right here.

Cutter points to a guy near the front.


This dude’s a trouble maker, am I right?

Everyone laughs.


Seriously, I’m here to learn, I’m here to work hard, and I’m here to party with those two guys over there.

(points to two guys)

Hey, if I wake up in Tijuana with no pants on, I’m calling you guys.

The two guys he’s pointing to love it. Everyone laughs.

Brad has everyone licking off his fingertips within FIVE MINUTES. And in those five minutes, Dave feels about five years closer to high school. In a great moment, the boss introduces Brad to Dave, and Dave tries to explain to Brad, through numerous examples, that they went to school together. It’s only after Brad remembers that Dave was the only kid who wore a noseplug in swim class, that he recognizes him. “Noseplug!” he points out, reciting the nickname he and the school used to call him. Horrified, Dave tries to play it off. But his boss loves it so much, that within ten minutes, guess what Dave’s new office nickname is?

Dave realizes that if he doesn’t do something fast, he’s not only going to lose hold of this precariously put together image he’s built up over the years, but he may actually end up losing the promotion to Brad – a guy who just got here today!

Of course the cooler Dave tries to be, the less cool he becomes. But it’s his naked effort to be accepted that soaks this script in so much hilarity. Lucky for Dave, he’s thrown a bone when Brad and his wife, Jenny (his high school sweetheart – who Dave used to masturbate to) invite him and Leah over to hang out. The plan totally backfires though, when Leah hits it off with Brad and Jenny a little too well. Soon, even his own future wife is one of the cool kids, and he's even further outside the circle.

Back at work, when the Just Juice team expresses hesitation about their account, it’s Brad who brazenly guarantees that they’ll get it done. This inspires Dave’s boss to split the Just Juice presentation into two teams to “create a little competition.” He then “picks teams,” clearly leaving Brad’s team with all the cool guys, and giving Dave all the dorks. With his grip on that promotion continuing to slip, Dave’s reemerging low self-esteem causes a total meltdown, disintegrating his relationship with Leah, and sabotaging his job at work.

If Dave doesn't find a way to overcome his obsession with popularity and make this thing right again, his life is as good as over.

The script is chock full of hilarious moments. But the definitive moment for me is when Dave, sitting all alone at lunch, in an effort to get closer to the “cool table” where Brad is, tries to scoot his chair over. But it’s one of those outdoor chair/table combinations, so the chairs are actually *chained* to the table. Since he’s already committed to moving, he has to pretend like he knew this all along. This forces him to drag his chair a few inches, reach back and drag the table a few inches, drag his chair another few inches, reach back and drag the table…all the while making this terribly loud screeching noise that causes everyone to stop eating and stare at him. I don’t know where Nussbaum comes up with this stuff (I’m praying it’s not from real life), but there are so many great moments like this.

I really only have one problem with the script, and that’s the ending. I’m not sure why exactly, but it doesn’t live up to the rest of the script. I guess it feels rushed and slightly disconnected. That third act bridge is a tough one to cross for any script, and Cutter could benefit from a quick smoothing out here. I also could’ve lived without Ben Affleck showing up as I feel like famous people cameos are a bit of a cheap gag. But that’s a minor quibble.

What I like most about Nussbaum’s writing is his breezy informal style. He throws in casual asides like (in describing Brad Cutter) “Picture the coolest guy from your high school, multiply by ten, and you get the idea,” that almost feel like you and a friend are hanging out and he’s relaying a story to you. It just doesn’t feel like you're reading at all.

I can’t say enough good things about this script. If you love reliving and/or making fun of high school, you’ll probably love Brad Cutter Ruined My Life Again.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Always fulfill the promise of your premise! If your movie is about a liar who’s forced to tell the truth for one day, don’t have it all of a sudden be about a guy trying to find love in Canada. Make sure every scene revolves around a guy who desperately wants to lie but can’t.