Thursday, April 2, 2009

Good Looking

Genre: Light sci-fi/Romantic Comedy
Synopsis: What if, on the verge of getting married, you learned that your soul mate was someone else?
About: This spec just sold to Dreamworks earlier in the week.
Writer: Chris McCoy

Hot off the presses is the recently sold spec script "Good Looking". Good Looking is about a dating service in the near future that is able to identify with 100% accuracy your one and only true love. As WILL and EMMA near their wedding, Will begins to wonder if Emma is the right girl for him and tries out the service. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that his true love is not Emma, but some girl named SOPHIE. The script focuses on the crumbling of Will and Emma's relationship as Will becomes more and more fixated on the fact that he may be with the wrong person.

It's actually a really good premise with a ton of potential. You've been with someone for five years, then along comes this dating service that tells you (with 100% certainty mind you) that that person isn't your true love. You start to have doubts. You start to wonder. And all of a sudden, you want to meet this other person.

Unfortunately Good Looking is never as good as it is in those first few pages because there's no real engine behind the story. This script needed some energy, some drive. And, at least for me personally, I didn't care if the two leads stayed together, which is the essential component to any romantic comedy.

Good Looking takes its time setting things up. I'm no Page Nazi but Will doesn't have his appointment with the Good Looking service until page 39. Since we know where this movie is going by page 5, that gives us 34 pages of sitting around and doing nothing.

I might have forgiven McCoy if there was some story within the story that we could get excited about. Or if we could learn something new about the characters. But all we find out is that Will is a decent enough guy, if not a little boring. Emma's a police officer who's kind of moody. And that's it. Those 34 pages are dedicated to reinforcing those character traits.

I think what bothered me about Good Looking was that it understands the beats it has to hit, but forgets what to do in between them. For instance, Emma and Will are supposed to get married. Yet it's freaking 3 months away! There's no sense of urgency. If a mistake is made, we still have another 2 months and 29 days to fix it. Why not make the wedding in a week? That way every decision and problem is magnified times a thousand.

Now as far as the Rom Com world in general, there are a few key things you have to get right. First we have to like the guy. Second we have to like the girl. And third we have to want them to be together. That way, when the "guy loses girl" scenario happens, all we can think about is him getting her back (or vice versa) But Emma is an aggressive moody cop that likes bad 80s movies and smokes pot. That's not someone I would want to get back together with, and so I didn't want Will to get back together with her either.

There's a so-so third act where Will is trying to court Sophie (the "soul mate") that feels like it comes on too late. In the end he decides he doesn't want "perfect love". He wants love with all its imperfections. Which is a sentence that sounds good in a trailer, but in the context of Good Looking, it doesn't quite feel honest. I don't know any guy who likes to get screamed at for 2 hours because he forgot to empty the dishwasher.

There's a movie here somewhere and I get why it sold. As human beings, we're obsessed with the color of grass just over the hill. Is it really greener? Or is it just as patchy and inconsistent as the grass in our front lawn? That's really what this movie is about. It's not about 100% matches or any of that - it's about the human condition of never being satisfied with what we have and always feeling like we can do better. I think, in the next draft, if Good Looking focuses more on that theme, it could be that rare Rom Com, the kind that makes you think. As of this moment, it's too raw for my taste. Hope it gets better in the rewrites.

[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Good Looking: Lots of things here. But I'll focus on the lack of urgency. The wedding should've been scheduled for a lot sooner. The choice of making it 3 months down the road almost destroyed the script all by itself. We never ever felt a sense of urgency with the story. People just sat around talking and acting upset. In a story like this you need to feel like time is running out. It really ups the stakes and gives your script momentum.