Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lauren Pemberton Is No Longer In A Relationship

Genre: Comedy
Premise: A 20-something publicist uses today’s social networking tools to track down his old tutor, who he was in love with as a kid.
About: Lauren Pemberton, as far as I know, did not sell. It did, however, make last year’s Hit List. While The Black List compiles the industry’s favorite unmade scripts, there are usually only 25 spec scripts on the list. Most of the scripts are adaptations and assignment work from big time writers. The Hit List compiles ONLY SPEC SCRIPTS, so it’s a better indication of who your direct competition is. Lauren Pemberton finished somewhere in the middle of the Hit List.
Writers: Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth Berger
Details: 119 pages - undated (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).

So I was watching The Social Network the other day and afterwards, I needed a pick me up. It’s a really good movie but man, everybody in it hates each other, backstabs each other, is a big meanie to each other. Friends are discarded like Cabbage Patch Kid card dobules. There’s just this overall sense of selfishness and evil. I figured I would either have to book a weekend to Disney World or find a social network script that reminded me there was still good in the world. On that end, Lauren Pemberton seemed like the perfect fit. A script about dating in the social-networking era. Or stalking in the social-networking era. Either way. It sounded like it would lift my spirits. So did I “Friend” Lauren Pemberton?

It’s 1999 and little 14 year old Josh Mintz is in lurv with his 17 year old Latin tutor, Lauren Pemberton. Lauren is pretty, smart, funny, and curvy in all the right places. Not many people can make Latin interesting, but Lauren Pemberton seems to be one of the select few.

As most 14 year olds would probably do, Josh begins to romanticize his time with his hot tutor. A smile here or a comment there, and Josh believes that Lauren might be falling for him. So when she invites him to her house for their last lesson, Josh assumes it will be to make love. Or kiss or something. So when he gets there early and finds her banging the star quarterback, well, he’s sort of devastated.

Cut to 12 years later and Josh has completely forgotten about Lauren Pemberton (yeah right). The dude is a star publicist now and his burgeoning career has him focused and happy. Until one day while screwing around on Facebook, the infamous “people you might know” sidebar suggests a little someone he should friend named “Lauren Pemberton.” Josh knows he shouldn’t, but he friend requests her anyway, then spends the next 48 hours checking his account every 12 seconds to see if she accepted. Hey, don’t judge. You know you’ve been there. (Oh Gina Johnson. Why didn’t you ever accept my request?)

Lauren finally accepts, but without a message, and in the script’s best sequence, Josh spends every waking second of the following weekend tirelessly going through everything ever written on Lauren Pemberton’s page. He learns every possible thing about her. The only problem is that Lauren has a boyfriend. So when that finally changes and the magical words, “Lauren Pemberton is not in a relationship” appear, Josh prepares the tried-and-true planned accidental meet-up at a bar Lauren’s going to.

The problem is, when Josh gets there, there are a couple of other guys who have ALSO spotted Lauren’s new “available” status, and they too are trying to nab her. So as Josh tries his “accidental” run-in, the other guys follow suit, and it all looks strangely suspicious. But even more suspicious is that after not seeing any of these guys for years, Lauren, who appears to be the most popular person in the universe, agrees to hang out with all of them the very next day.

During the times when he’s not battling with the other two suitors, Josh learns that Lauren wants to be a TV cook, but she has trouble finding an angle to make herself unique and usually ends up swearing at the camera and being flustered whenever she tries to cook something. In swoops publicist Josh who convinces her to embrace her idiosyncrasies, and what do you know, all of a sudden she starts to shine.

This, of course, brings them closer together, and finally puts Josh in his dream position – to be “in a relationship” with Lauren Pemberton.

Lauren Pemberton is a breezy little comedy with a fun vibe and its share of laughs. The script is well-written and better than a lot of comedy scripts I read. This isn’t amateur hour here. Aptaker and Berger know what they’re doing. However, Lauren Pemberton violates a huge pet peeve of mine, that pretty much ensured I wasn’t going to like it. What is this pet peeve? Making characters do things or act certain ways that they never would in real life, in order to move the plot forward.

The exact moment the script lost me was after Josh walked into the bar to meet Lauren, and the two other suitors showed up to do the same thing. I actually thought it was a genius little development to screw up Josh’s plan, but I thought it was just going to be for that scene. When I realized these guys were going to be permanent foils, I was really bummed, cause, in my opinion, it devalued the central driving force of the story (Josh’s pursuit of Lauren) and turned it into a broader sort of ongoing Three Stooges routine.

But what really bothered me was that from that point on, things just started happening because the plot needed them to. For example, we establish that Lauren has a billion friends on Facebook and is the unequivocal star of this bar gathering, the person everyone wants to be around. Why then, upon meeting these three guys she hasn’t seen in years and doesn’t know anymore, does she flippantly agree to go to lunch with all of them the very next day? Doesn’t she have plans? Doesn’t she have gobs of friends already? She doesn’t even really seem that happy to see them. More surprised. So the fact that she just says, “Sure, let’s all hang,” has the stink of “movie logic” to it. It’s happening cause the writers need it to happen to move the story forward, not because it would happen.

Not to mention, Lauren sees three guys she hasn’t seen in years, right after she broke up with her boyfriend, and doesn’t seem to pick up on the fact that they’ve obviously been stalking her. Again, this is a “writer’s hand” decision. Even though almost every woman in the world would pick up on this in real life, the writers can’t have that, or else the movie can’t move forward, so they defy logic and just make Lauren clueless for those couple of minutes and not suspect a thing.

This continues when Lauren just starts hanging out with these guys, going to their events, their speeches, their shows. For this extremely beautiful charming funny woman who every person wants to be around, she apparently didn’t have any life or any friends before this as she’s been able to completely clear out her schedule to only hang out with these three men.

This is topped off by a character goal that also defies real world logic. Josh’s plan is to have sex with Lauren so he can finally forget about her and move on with his life. This doesn’t make sense on any level at all. Josh is not a player. He doesn’t fuck people and move on. Josh has been in love with Lauren ever since he was 14. There is no evidence to suggest that having sex with her would allow him to move on from her. If anything, it would make him like her more. So the premise itself is shaky. It’s just there so that there’s a movie, not because it would happen in real life.

I’m making this script sound terrible and it really isn’t. But like I said, that conceit – things happening only because it’s a movie – is a huge pet peeve of mine. Longtime readers of the site know this. So Lauren Pemberton had an uphill battle with me from the start. That said, the script came to me recommended, and already a few people have e-mailed me to tell me how much they liked it. So I think if you don’t have that same obsession with movie logic as I do, you might enjoy this. Personally, I just wanted to believe what was happening more.

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

What I learned: Making characters do things they wouldn’t normally do solely to move the plot along is something I have a huge problem with. Now some of you may say, “But Carson, this is a comedy. Loosen up.” True, it’s a comedy, but it’s not a farce. It’s based in the real world. For that reason, it needs to play by real world rules. Let me offer you a scenario. Let’s say I hate Chinese food. Knowing that, if it’s Saturday night and I’m going out to eat, what is the food I’m least likely to eat? Chinese, right? Okay, now let’s pretend I’m a character in a movie. Same thing. My character hates Chinese food. However, in this movie, the girl I’m supposed to eventually meet and fall in love with at some point in the story works at a Chinese restaurant. So the writer of this script, in order to get his romantic leads together, has me decide, “You know what? Maybe I’ll try Chinese tonight.” My character goes to a restaurant he hates, meets the lead female in the story, and the movie is on its way. This is a rather clumsy example but you get the point. The writer has just made a character act completely illogical in order to push his story along. You can get away with this every once in awhile. But if you keep doing it (Lauren doesn’t realize the guys are stalking her, Lauren hangs out with them the very next day even though she barely knows them, a super popular woman had no friends before this and can now spend every waking moment with these guys, guys hang around each other who don't like each other) the reader starts to sense an artificiality to the story. The thing is, all it takes is a little extra effort to fix these logic problems. For example, instead of having ME book a reservation at the Chinese restaurant, have my friend who’s joining me book it and not tell me until I get there. That way you get me to the restaurant and it still makes sense.