Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Screenplay Review - The Museum Of Broken Relationships

Genre: Rom-Com
Premise: A young woman who keeps important items from her previous relationships decides to start a museum featuring those items, turning her into a mini-celebrity.
About: This script finished in the middle of the pack of last year’s Black List.
Writer: Natalie Krinsky
Details: 110 pages – May 17, 2011 draft (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 heard mixed things about this one. One person I trust said it was absolutely awful. Another person I trust said it was borderline amazing. It should be noted that the person who didn’t like it was a guy and the person who did was a girl. Maybe this is a gender specific script?

The first thing I’d point out about The Museum of Broken Relationships is that the concept is…ehhh…a little hard to buy into. Building a museum out of old relationship items? I even had issues with someone *preserving* old relationship items in the first place. Nobody actually does that, right? But when I went back to check the writer’s name for this review, I noticed that under the title and her name was this: (based on her own insanity). This implied, of course, that not only does this happen, but that our writer was leading the charge!

Okay, so maybe it does happen. And maybe our writer has something unique to say about it. And you know what? I have to admit, the concept’s at least *different*. This isn’t your typical “been there done that” rom-com premise. So I tried to go into “Museum” with an open mind.

Lucy Gulliver, 28, resides in her “adorable Brooklyn apartment,” cursing like a sailor and falling in love easily. She's currently a junior curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She's also banging her boss, Max Frank, a self-absorbed asshole whose assholish qualities are lost on everyone except for Lucy.

As Lucy gears up for what she believes is going to be the next level of their relationship, Max surprises everyone except for poor Lucy when, at a banquet, he announces that his inspiration - and also new girlfriend – Ameilia, will be getting the new curator position that Lucy so desperately wanted. Ouch.

A World War II battle between Lucy and Max follows and she follows that by quitting, putting her in big financial doo-doo. Luckily her roommates are there to pick her up, going into Break-up Damage Control Mode, something they’re very good at with Lucy breaking up ALL THE TIME.

Afterwards, we find out Lucy creepily keeps tons of items from her previous relationships in her room. And her roommates come clean, telling her in no uncertain terms that she's a psycho, and that if she's ever going to have a real relationship, she has to let go of all these relationships by letting go of these items.

But Lucy’s not the type of girl who listens to logic and actually goes in the opposite direction. In a drunken crying Facebook post, she tells everyone to offload their own personal relationship souvenirs on her. She doesn't think much of it, but the next day, people start leaving these items on her doorstep. Lucy unwittingly becomes the recipient of everyone else finally letting go of their past.

The itemage gets so big that she eventually needs a place for all of it, and that's when she comes up with the idea to turn it into a museum exhibit.

During this time, she meets the curiously named Nick Friend, a man-whore who usually doesn't go out with girls long enough to experience breakups. The two are opposites in many ways, which is why they get along great. Nick is actually the one who finds her her museum space.

Eventually, the museum becomes a big hit, and Max comes back into the picture, wanting to affiliate the museum with the Met. He also wants to get back together with Lucy. Despite her success, Lucy's self-esteem is still low, so she says yes, in the process ensuring her doom. The question is, will she figure that out in time to stop it and realize who she's really supposed to be with?

The Museum Of Broken Relationships is definitely a “love it or hate it” script. And it's clear early on why women are going to relate to this script more than men. I'd argue that Krinski doesn't like men much – something she’s not afraid to show. At one point, describing Nick’s friend playing video games, she writes, “Brady plays Madden or Halo or Call of Duty or one of those lame games that boys play.” Which is kind of funny but at the same time a pretty transparent indication that our writer’s not a fan of us dudes.

But what's really going to polarize people is the style the script is written in - the dialogue in particular - which is VERY big and showy. It's the kind of style that's going to get a script noticed, and certainly makes a script memorable where so many others are forgettable, but it also feels a bit desperate, like a writer waving their hands and screaming, “Look at me!”

I have a problem with that kind of writing for that reason. It makes me forget about the story and concentrate on the writing itself. And anything that pulls the writer out of the story is a dangerous move. Because they're no longer caught up in the magic of your world. They're thinking about you the physical writer. Let me give you a couple of examples

When describing a statue in the museum she works at, Lucy says, “Aphrodite is the original gangsta of love. And thusly deserves a place of original gangsta-ness. And that’s final.”

Or, “Cinder-Fella, we’ve got to be at the ball in 15 minutes. The talking ship has sailed.”

Nearly EVERY line of dialogue is like this. Now the funny thing is I talked about elevating your dialogue a few posts ago. But this is what happens when you elevate it too much. You bring attention to it. I’m old school in that sense. I think the writing should be invisible, no matter how “big” it is. Krinsky takes the same approach with the action description.

Max clears his throat uncomfortably then leans in the opposite direction and whispers something in Amelia’s ear. She giggles. Max smiles tightly. Homeboy looks worried.

I don't know. It just feels like the writer is trying too hard.

As for the story, it's executed well. Sometimes I'm so focused on what's not working in a script that I forget to appreciate what is working. Just getting all the pieces where they're supposed to be is big deal. And everything here is where it's supposed to be. And I know that because I never checked what page I was on or pulled out of the script because a scene had nothing to do with the story. In an amateur script, I might do that 40 to 50 times. So there’s something to say about Krinsky’s understanding of the craft.

But if I'm being honest, I don't think this script was written for guys. I think it was written for women and that's why I identified with so little of it. A female-written script I felt was much better suited to both sexes, and a lot more relatable, was the highly ranked Black List entry, “He’s Fucking Perfect,” which I loved and about everybody else hated (don’t know where those voters of the Black List were to back me up on that review!”). So who knows who's right? I just felt the showy female-biased vibe was too dominant here. I didn’t dig it.

[ ] Wait for the rewrite
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Motivate your characters’ actions. You can't just have characters do things because you want them to. Your characters don't know they're in a story. They believe they’re in real life. So if they do something, it has to make sense to them. There's a moment in the middle of the script where Krinsky needs to accelerate the relationship between Nick and Lucy, who’ve only seen each other out and about. So Krinsky simply has Nick show up at her place. Why? I have no idea. I don't even know how he knows where she lives. But the relationship needed to get going and this was the easiest way to do it. But it doesn't make sense so it stands out as an awkward scene. Instead, look for ways to motivate these moments. For example, maybe Nick has heard about Lucy’s broken relationship item collecting and therefore brings over something from his previous relationship. Now his visit is motivated by an act instead of him just showing up. So always look to motivate your character's actions in your script. If you don't, we’ll notice.