Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Boy Next Door

Genre: Thriller
Premise: A newly separated mother finds herself attracted to the 17 year old boy who moves in next door. But when she abruptly ends the romance, he’s not ready to give up on her.
About: The Boy Next Door was featured on this year’s Blood List. Barbara Curry is known for another highly acclaimed script titled “Talk Of The Town,” which was featured in UCLA’s prestigious Screenwriters Showcase Event. And there’s another thing about Barbara. She’s HOT! If you don’t believe me, go check out her interview here.  I am officially starting the Barbara Curry fan club. Who wants to join?
Writer: Barbara Curry
Details: 105 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).

First thing I noticed about The Boy Next Door was how tight the spacing was. Hmmmmm. Barbara? Are you trying to pull one over on us here? It looks like someone got a little scrunchy with their First Draft settings. On any other day, I’d hold it against the writer. But today I’m smitten. So I’ll let it go.

High school teacher Claire Peterson is having a rough go of it lately. She’s recently split up with her hubby and is taking care of her teenage son, Kevin, all by herself. At home things are fine but she’s got a front row seat to Kevin getting bullied at school every day. She desperately wants to do something about it but knows that butting in will probably just make it worse.

Claire’s got her own issues as well. She’s suuuuuper uptight. Her best friend Vicky, a fellow teacher, is begging her to go out and have some crazy wild animal sex so she can loosen up. But Claire’s not ready for that yet. She may have kicked her hubby to the curb, but that doesn’t mean she’s not conflicted about it.

And then everything changes. A new family moves in next door, starring model-esque 17 year old Noah Sandborn. Noah looks more like a man than a boy, and he immediately befriends Kevin, making it nearly impossible for Claire to ignore him. Pretty soon he’s chatting her up and she finds herself taken by the muscle bound youngster.

Claire is a different person around Noah. She feels sexy, desired, lustful. One thing Claire isn’t feeling though is lawful. Cause one night when she’s drunk, she takes a spin on the Noah-mobile. Noah is thrilled with this development but when Claire wakes up the next morning, she’s in damage control mode. What the HELL did she just do??? She tells Noah that she’s sorry. This was all just a mistake, and does the dart-of-shame.

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be a problem. But Noah lives right next to Claire. Noah’s best friends with her son. Noah sits front and center in one of her classes. In other words, wherever Claire goes, Noah is waiting. And he *really* wants to get back together.

Claire tries desperately to get her son to stop hanging out with Noah. But the guy’s become Kevin’s own personal bully-buster. That and there’s no perfect way to say, “Hey son. You know your best friend? I kind of had sex with him the other night. So could you ignore his texts?” I mean you thought the “birds and the bees” conversation was tough.

There’s probably a lesson to take out of all of this. Oh yeah: DON’T HAVE SEX WITH ONE OF YOUR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. But hindsight is 20/20, and Claire’s going to need more than a lesson plan to get out of this one.

The Boy Next Door is pretty good. I don’t think it’s going to knock anybody’s welcome mat off, but for what it’s trying to be – Fatal Attraction with a twist – it does a good job.

I will say this about the script. It’s PERFECT for studying dramatic irony. Once Noah and Claire have sex, virtually every scene contains some aspect of dramatic irony. In the classroom, Noah will press Claire on a question. Since nobody in the class knows what happened between them, their exchange is dripping with dramatic tension. At home, whenever Noah, Claire, and Kevin are together, Kevin is unaware of their secret, which means that each exchanged word is laced with subtext.

In fact, this script is further proof of how effective the “add a third person to the scene” rule is. Lots of scenes become more interesting once you add a third person (or people). I mean imagine Noah and Claire having that same conversation OUTSIDE of the classroom, without the rest of the class listening. There’s no more subtext. Imagine Claire and Noah having conversations without Kevin around. Those same electric scenes become dry and boring.

And I’m going to stay on my “unresolved relationships in your second act” kick here. Notice that there are TWO unresolved relationships in the movie. The first one is obvious. Claire and Noah. But we also have one between Claire and her husband, Gary. Claire needs to come to terms with what Gary did to her and decide whether she’s going to take him back or not. Barbara could’ve added a third unresolved relationship if she wanted – that between Claire and her son, Kevin. But she chose to keep that relationship fine.

Personally, I think three unresolved relationships is the perfect amount for your second act. There are 50-60 pages in your second act which gives you about 20 pages for each - the perfect amount of time. But it all depends on HOW much is going on in each of those relationships. If you have two REALLY POWERFUL relationships that have ups and downs and breakups and reconciliations, you may not need that third relationship. It’s up to you.

Another interesting thing to note about this script is that there’s no real goal. I’ve found that in these types of thrillers (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Single White Female) the train-wreck nature of the relationship is enough to drive the story. So there’s nothing big that Claire has to achieve here until late in the script, when she must scramble to fix what she’s broken. This is a little confusing, I know. But that’s how these movies work.

On the downside, I wasn’t a big fan of how easily Claire fell into Noah’s clutches. I mean he had her drooling from the very first conversation. Within like two scenes he’s asking her about her failed marriage and she’s chatting away like she’s at lunch with the girls. This is a 17 YEAR OLD BOY SHE’S TALKING TO! You’d think she’d show a little more restraint. At least initially.

I also thought people bumped into each other too easily in the story. It seemed like every other scene, one of our characters would magically BUMP into another one randomly. This is a little talked about area of screenwriting but an important one. You can’t just have characters bump into each other because you, the writer, need to have a scene between them. It has to be natural. You have to come up with seamless ways for them to meet. This is usually annoying work. It’s not creative and not very fun. But it pays off because it keeps your story seamless. If we become aware that the writer is manipulating the characters, the story spell is broken.

But overall, The Boy Next Door was fun and silly. A guilty pleasure of sorts. I had a good time with it and therefore recommend the read!

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

What I learned: In most movie romances, you want the pursuer to have to EARN the romance. This is a MOVIE. It’s no fun when anything lands in a character’s lap. You need conflict. Doubt. That’s what makes the romance (the pursuit) interesting. Here, Claire is ready to fuck Noah from the first moment they meet. That’s not very interesting. She probably should’ve resisted him more. Noah should have had to EARN the romance. Look at Titanic. Jack doesn’t just slide up to Rose and say, “Hey girl, nice hat,” and they’re banging in the boiler room 10 minutes later. He has to STOP HER FROM COMMITTING SUICIDE. I’d say that’s earning the romance.