Monday, May 16, 2011

Bachelorette

People have been e-mailing me asking me what I thought of Everything Must Go.  To be honest, I'm terrified to see it.  The movie is already perfect in my head, and I'm scared to ruin that by watching the film.  But I'll probably force myself to do it in the next couple of weeks.  Also, for those following me on Facebook, I ended up seeing Fast Five instead of Thor.  It was WAY better than 4, but what the hell?  That Vin-Rock fight was weak as hell.  That thing should've been epic!

Genre: Dark Comedy
Premise: Imagine if the Mean Girls from high school grew up and became your bridesmaids.
About: Bachelorette started out as a play, which writer Leslye Headland turned into a screenplay, which made it onto the 2008 Black List. It was subsequently forgotten about, until the recent buzz surrounding Bridesmaids, when Will Ferrell and his team came on as producers (incidentally, I had always assumed that Bridesmaids, was, in fact, a retitled “Bachelorette”). Headland went to school at NYU, where she studied directing, then got a personal assistant job at Miramax. "I learned a lot," she recalls. "Harvey was a great boss. He read my stuff and said, 'Why aren't you pursuing writing?' It gave me the balls to go out and do it." In 2007, she moved to California. "I thought that doing low-budget, independent theater would be easier in Los Angeles because it's a little cheaper there," she explains, adding: "And it's not a theater town, so I thought, if I fail miserably, no one will notice!" The opportunity eventually led to a writing gig on the FX show, Terriers.
Writer: Leslye Headland
Details: 95 pages (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).


I like the story behind Leslye’s success. It’s a great reminder that becoming a successful writer (or filmmaker or anything in this business) never happens how you think it’s going to happen. It’s not this straightforward linear journey where you send a script out, someone buys it for half a million, then you live happily ever after. It usually takes work, some diversions, different jobs, building contacts, and maybe a little luck here and there. When things didn’t happen for Lesyle right away, she said, “You know what? I’m not going to wait for my break here in New York, I’ll go produce this play in L.A.” It got her Bachelorette project noticed, which allowed her to get the screenplay version of her play out there, which ended up on the Black List, which got her notoriety. And eventually, a few years later, when another Bridesmaids flick gained some buzz, she got her shot. You just gotta keep plugging away, trying different things, until you reach your goal. You can’t sit in your basement and hope for the best.

Anyway, on to Bachelorette, which is a very…….(I’m going to choose my words carefully here) different screenplay. I say “different” because there are some great things about it, but also some really amateur things. I’ll get to those in a moment. But let’s start with the plot.

Gena Myers is a borderline waste of a human being. She’s 29 years old and she still goes out every night, drinks til she blacks out, and always wakes up with some piece of shit random dude in her bed. Her life is ten shades of pathetic, and yet she has no plans to change.

Her partner in crime is Katie Neuberg, her bff since high school. While she’s not as pathetic as Gena, she does spend a couple of hours a day on the treadmill and will throw up everything she eats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in order to stay thin and perfect.

Rounding out the trio is Regan, the “Stepford Wife” of the clan. She’s snobby, elitist, and like the other two girls, incredibly selfish. Yup, these three are real winners. And they’re all reuniting in order to be bridesmaids for an old high school acquaintance’s wedding. “Pigface Becky,” as they remember her, is finally getting married. And she doesn’t have any bridesmaids, so she’s given Regan power of attorney to find some for her. Regan, of course, picks her two buddies, both of whom spent the majority of high school making fun of the pigster.

Everyone flies to New York, and even though Becky’s not pigfaced anymore, that doesn’t prevent them from starting up the fat jokes as soon as she turns her back. There’s obviously tension here, but the girls do their best to eliminate it, and the next thing you know, it’s prep time. We have a wedding tomorrow!

Complicating things is three men from the bridesmaids’ pasts. For Gena, it’s Clyde (“John Cusack meets Vince Vaughn”), her high school sweetheart. For Katie it’s Joe, the geeky computer dork who’s always been in love with her. And for Regan, it’s Jeff, the hottie who she’s wildly attracted to but whom she must deny since she’s engaged.

When the guys go to a strip club, the girls decide to join them, and that’s when all hell breaks loose. The girls do a flour bag sized mountain of coke, drink more alcohol than is imported to the state of Utah, and engage in every unspeakable activity one can think of. It all comes to a crashing halt though when they accidentally rip Pigface Becky’s wedding dress and drip blood all over it. Instead of fixing the dress, however, they decide to party instead, and naturally, this has major implications the next morning, when the wedding finally takes place.

Bachelorette should lead to some interesting discussion. Just the other day I was talking about Jimmy’s asshole character in the Mighty Flynn, and how his assholeness didn’t turn me off. Well here, we have three of the nastiest meanest most horrible women you can imagine. They’re inappropriate (going into the gory details of giving guys blowjobs to complete strangers). They’re cruel (openly making fun of Pigface Becky at every turn). They’re off-putting (nothing like watching a bunch of slutty whores dive head first into a mountain of coke). But most of all they’re just bad people.

Someone brought this up a few months ago - how audiences will accept a male asshole protagonist but they won’t accept a female asshole protagonist. I don’t know how true that is (I liked Bad Teacher), but it sure was true in this case. As much as I tried, I couldn’t root for these characters, or care about them, or support them. They didn’t possess a single redeemable trait, and almost everything that came out of their mouths was heartless, hurtful, or disgusting. As they pull out Becky’s wedding dress while coked up to Scarface proportions, rip it, laugh, and then decide to go out instead of fix it, all I could think was, “God do I hate all of you.”

Also, the script has a huge logic hump the audience has to get over. Why the hell would our sweet innocent pleasant bride agree to have the three bitchiest most terrible popular girls who haunted her in high school as her bridesmaids??? In comedy, we’re supposed to be more forgiving of logic holes, but as I’ve pointed out before, you want to keep those holes as far away from your premise as possible. And this hole is smack dab in the middle of the premise. This movie is about three bitches becoming a woman’s bridesmaids. So it should make sense why they’re her bridesmaids. There’s an attempt at an explanation later on (Regan was given carte blanche to pick the bridesmaids so she picked Gena and Katie). But come on. I refuse to accept that Becky has no real friends in life. It’s just impossible to buy into.

There are some other things that bothered me as well. Remember, you want every scene you write to push the story forward. But scenes in Bachelorette would appear for no reason. For example, we have this totally needless scene with Gena flying to New York where she gives a 5 minute monologue about how to give a great blowjob to the random guy sitting next to her. There is not only no reason to include this scene (the movie wouldn’t have changed had they just cut to her landing in New York) but there’s no logical reason for why she even talks to this guy. It’s clearly there just to squeeze in the blowjob monologue.

What saves this script though, and what makes you battle with whether you like it or not, is that the writing and the dialogue are really strong. As I open the script now to a random page, I read, “Text me later. I bet you could take a poke at one of the bridemaids. They’re easy like Sunday morning.” Or on another page I found this description, where Katie is wearing a green face mask, “Katie, on the treadmill, looking like an out-of-breath Gremlin after midnight.” That descriptive imaginative writing can be found on almost every page. There’s definitely a manic energy here, even if it’s being siphoned through these three nasty human beings, that you have no choice but to admire.

But the reason I can’t recommend this is best described by my mood afterwards. After finishing Bachelorette I felt spent, dirty, sad, and depressed. There’s so much bitterness in the writing, so much hate, that I just wanted to get away from this script and forget about it. It had nothing to do with talent, as the writer clearly has plenty. It was just my personal reaction to the characters, the kind of people I would cut my arm off for to avoid in real life. It bothers me, however, that I can’t articulate why I liked reading Jimmy Flynn or why I liked reading the main character in Bad Teacher, yet hated these three. Maybe it’s because they’re ten times worse than either of those characters? I don’t know. If anyone feels the same way, I’d be interested to hear your opinion. Anyway, I’m going to go take a bath. After this review, I need one.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ }worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Another reminder to stay away from current events/popular references in your screenplays. References to Zach Braff and Lost are all but meaningless now (though they probably read like gangbusters back in 2007). You never know how many years down the line someone might read your script. Best to stay away from these time-capsule references.