Not all the Black List scripts smell like roses. Inevitably, you’re going to run into a script with some thorns. It's not that the script is “bad." I like to think of it as you and the writer have different gardens in mind. I’ve stepped into a few of these gardens. And not surprisingly, they’re all comedies. I say “not surprisingly” because this darn comedy genre is so stinkin’ polarizing. It’s inherent in its make-up. It’s probably why my dislike of 500 Days Of Summer (the movie, not the script) caused such a backlash in my Top 9 Movies Post. What others thought was hilarious and real, I found slow and plodding. You can’t spell plodding without “odd” though and my sense of humor is definitely that. I prefer the understated ambiguity of the humor in, say, Rushmore, to the loud demonstrative laughs you find in films like Wedding Crashers. The thing that always confuses me, though, is these comedies that *everybody* loves. Movies like The Hangover and Dumb and Dumber. Despite their wacky zanyness, they have uber-mass appeal. How do they do it? I guess when you're able to answer that, you're ready to open your own studio. For better or for worse, here are some Black List scripts that weren’t for me. Just opinions folks. Smother them in bowls of salt.
DOC AND HOWIE WHACK A GRANNY by Steve Leff
Premise: “Two men, Doc and Howie, inadvertently kill an elderly woman when they neglect to help her carry groceries up stairs. The incident puts them in position to get closer to the woman's attractive granddaughters, and they struggle with deciding whether to tell the women the truth about the circumstances under which they met.”
Is Doc and Howie Whack a Granny the “Dude, Where’s My Car” of this generation? (or maybe I should ask, is “Dude, Where’s My Car” really a remnant of a previous generation?) I’ll leave that up to you. As for me, I felt like someone looking for a Christmas party and stumbling into a Vegas Halloween bash. Vulgar for vulgar’s sake shuts me down faster than a bad sweet potato. By page 3 our characters are discussing the intricacies of low vaginas. By page 5 how ball sweat affects blowjobs. I’m not going to pretend like I’m above this kind of humor. It’s just not my thing. If there’s something to take away from the script, it’s that they nailed the title. And when you nail a title, you get a ton of reads (I mentally put it at the top of my read pile after going through the list). Despite my post-Christmas Scroogeish-ness on “Granny”, this was one of the higher rated comedies on the list and I can see it playing strong to a young audience. Check it out and let me know what you think.
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack
Premise: “A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.”
This is the one script from the list that made me sit up and go “huh?” I didn’t get it at all. I can’t stand scripts with muddy setups and this one came in like Arnold Swarchenegger at the end of Predator. The beginning is a big montage. Although we watch Celeste and Jesse get married, they also get divorced. Except when their divorce happens it’s never mentioned. For that reason, when the real script begins and their friends yell at them in reference to their divorce, I had to stop, rewind, check the montage again to see where they got divorced. It wasn’t there. And that’s when I officially checked out. If the writers aren’t taking the time to make things clear, then why even bother reading it? But even if that'd never happened, the script has a very strange tone to it. Celeste and Jesse have all these inside jokes going on, which they laugh at but nobody else does. Problem is, we don’t laugh at them either. It’s like those two best friends at a party who only care about making each other laugh, and actually revel in the fact that nobody else knows what they're talking about. Wonderful for those two. But to everyone else they're flashing a big fat sign that reads: “You’re not invited.” I never felt like I was invited to this story.
BETTY’S READY by Jaylynn Bailey
Premise: “After she discovers that her boyfriend is gay, a high schooler, determined to lose her virginity before she goes to college, pursues several possible ‘candidates’ before she finds love with her geeky neighbor, who has always loved her.”
More vulgarity, this time from Miss Jaylynn! I swear I’m not a prude but if in the first couple of pages a female character likens a smell to "day-old twat" I immediately know I’m not the audience for this film. I do find it strange though, that the scripts Hollywood seems to be favoring from women these days are the ones that take on an almost male-like vile-ness. I Want To Fuck Your Sister, Desperados, The Hand Job. I guess the idea of a girl being able to out-dirty the guys has a delicious shock value to it. However, none of this is the reason I didn’t dig Betty’s Ready. My problem was the character of Betty herself, who from the get go was fairly angry and bitter. I simply couldn’t identify with her.
GOOD LOOKING by Chris McCoy
Premise: “In a future where dating services perfectly match soulmates, a man rejects the person chosen for him.”
Dreamworks bought this early in the year. I think there’s something in this premise, but it’s not quite there yet. In fact, I’d be interested if the voters read a newer draft of the script, as the one I read was the draft that sold. Funny story – as I started reading this, I realized it sounded familiar. After a few pages I said, “Hey, I think I already read this.” And indeed I did. I reviewed it all the way back in April!
ALLIES WITH BENEFITS by Elizabeth Wright Shapiro
Premise: “The female President of The United States falls for her old college fling, the now Prime Minister of England.”
All the way on the other end of the spectrum from "Betty's Ready" (and I guess partly contradicting my previous statement) is Allies and Benefits. This female-written script is as safe as a down pillow, and I think that’s its biggest problem. You know how even the best down pillows have the feathers sticking out that occasionally prick you? That remind you comfort can’t be enjoyed unless you understand dis-comfort? Allies With Benefits didn’t have any of those feathers. It was too smooth. It sorta reminded me of the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy (yes, I saw the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy!) but with world leaders as main characters. That’s something else I couldn’t get past. A president’s life is so out of the ordinary that unless the movie is written to specifically explore that unique life, it’s difficult to identify with them. Putting your leaders in a romantic comedy is even more daring because you have to balance this complicated ordered world they’re a part of with the fluffy romantic comedy conventions we expect from the genre. It’s like trying to slam peanut butter and mayonnaise together. Everybody likes peanut butter. Everybody likes mayonnaise. But I think the Canadians are the only ones who like them together. There are some cute moments here and it passes the poster test (you can see the poster to this movie without blinking) but I wanted more pricks. I wanted more dirt. Highly intrigued to hear what other rom-com lovers have to say about this.
note: If you're looking for Black List scripts, they're around. Ask in the comments section.