Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Stalker: A Love Story

Genre: Comedy
Premise: A guy decides to stalk his ex-girlfriend.
About: Carnes & Gilbert were on Variety's "Top Ten Screenwriters To Watch" list of 2005. They sold "Stalker: A Love Story" to Paramount for 1.75 million dollars. The two also wrote Mr. Woodcock. More info here.
Writers: Michael Carnes & Josh Gilbert

For those of you who have read a significant number of scripts, you know how it is when you're smack dab in the middle of something that just ain't working. Now for those of you who read scripts casually, the reaction to such a situation is easy. YOU STOP READING. I don't have that luxury. Quitting in the middle of the script means I just wasted 45 minutes and now have to start all over again. It's for this reason that I can't solely post positive reviews. And that's too bad. Because I wish Scriptshadow could be a place of celebration and candy and rainbows and the occasional unicorn (no leprechauns though). I hold no ill will towards writers and I get no satisfaction from pointing out when something doesn't work. But man, I have to be honest with you, "Stalker: A Love Story" was not good on many levels. And it really is confusing when you're talking about a near two million dollar sale. "Am I missing something?", you think. I'd assume the most common response to being stalked is feeling violated. And I felt very violated reading this script.

We definitely need more unicorns on Scriptshadow.

My basic complaint is this: The setup makes absolutely no sense. David and Amanda are in a relationship. Fine. Sounds good to me. But David, an architect, is a workaholic and isn't very into Amanda. He doesn't like to do things with her. He's the kind of boyfriend you say something to and then, forever-later he looks up and slurs "Whah?" So to be clear: David loves his job and doesn't love his relationship. Amanda finally realizes that he's never going to change and dumps David. She's through. How does David react? Eh. Shrugs his shoulders and says, "Oh well", then moves on. Let me reiterate: David doesn't seem to like Amanda at all.

So then we get a "Six Months Later" title and David is still happily plugging away at his job. In fact, things are going so well he's just been offered a contract on a new building. Hooray. Once again, Amanda isn't even a blip on David's radar. He probably doesn't even remember her name. One night while David is pulled out for drinks, he runs into Amanda's friend, who informs David that Amanda is in a new relationship. And in a span of about 3 seconds, David decides that he's always loved Amanda and is going to stalk her until he gets her back.


How does this even make a remote amount of sense? I don't like you. Now I'm infatuated with you?? I've seen Fraggle Rock episodes with more logic. It was so outrageous of a character change, I scrolled around to make sure I hadn't accidentally opened another script. I can MAYBE see this working if David realized what he lost the second Amanda broke up with him. But six months later? After we've established he doesn't even like the woman?? Someone had just sent me a one-way ticket to Bizarre-o World.

From that point on Carnes and Gilbert had no chance with me. If characters could just turn into different people without explanation, why not add wizards and dragons while you're at it? But it was the missed opportunity of "Stalker" that ate at me most. Why didn't the writers go for an edgier comedy? Having your main character be a stalker is something that's never been done before in a comedy. You could've created something truly groundbreaking here, which is exactly what the title implies will happen. And I'm sure that expectation had plenty to do with my disappointment. But man, I feel like they really missed the boat. Instead of doing something different, this turned out to be one of the most standard of standard romantic comedies I've ever read.

As for the rest of the script, David turns to his Indian neighbor, Pumpang, for support. Pumpang is actually *the* most broken up about the dumping of everyone. He loved David and Amanda together and when their relationship ended, he spent days on end crying (as opposed to David - who didn't cry at all). When David's amateur efforts at stalking fail, Pumpang introduces him to a spy store, where the two buy all sorts of gadgets and listening devices so they can more accurately stalk Amanda. Now when I say "stalk", I use that term very loosely. Because every stalking scene is played purely for laughs. There are no consequences or stakes to what they're doing. We know that even if David gets caught, he'll be fine. Without any sense of danger, none of the stalking scenes held any tension.

Anyway, David lets his co-worker, Karen, in on the whole plot. Karen has seen every romantic comedy ever made and is constantly using examples from them to get David to move on. It turns out Karen might be a bit of a stalker herself though when it's eventually revealed she's infatuated with David. Although she never felt like a real person so I couldn't get into her. And to complicate matters, Amanda's new boyfriend is also David's client for his new building. Except it doesn't really complicate matters at all. It just feels like an interesting coincidence. I'm trying to think if there's anything else to the story but I'm coming up blank.

In the end, David gives a big long speech to Amanda about perfection. Her current boyfriend may be perfect. But David is imperfect, which, he points out, is exactly why she fell in love with him. Since the theme of perfection or even the hint of its importance was never once mentioned in the screenplay, this speech comes out of nowhere. Luckily for David though, it's enough to convince Amanda, and the two live happily ever after.

Was there anything positive about the script? Well, I thought the title was great. It was the reason I was excited to read the screenplay in the first place. Pumpang's obsession with getting David and Amanda back together was kind of cute. But in the end, there were an avalanche of negatives with Stalker. I congratulate Carnes and Glibert on a great sale. But for me, personally, I couldn't get into it.

[x] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest

[ ] worth the read

[ ] impressive

[ ] genius

What I learned: There's a scene in the middle of "Stalker: A Love Story," where David is pressured into going to an Asian Massage Parlor. I won't get into how many Asian massage parlor scenes I read in a week, but what upset me so much about the scene was that it had absolutely nothing to do with the story. In other words, you could've taken the scene out and nobody would've been confused as to what was going on. If your scene isn't essential to the screenplay, don't write it. And if you have a really funny scene you're dying to put in your movie but it isn't essential to the story, take the extra time and FIND A WAY TO MAKE IT ESSENTIAL TO THE STORY. Now you have a funny scene and it makes sense. Everybody wins.