Wednesday, December 21, 2011

31 Days Of Larry

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Premise: Finding it more difficult to kill himself than he thought it would be, a depressed man offers a cash-strapped woman his life insurance money if she’ll marry him and make sure the suicide succeeds.
About: This spec sold to Lionsgate last year. The writer, Corinne Kingsbury, was actually an actress and had a small part in Old School back in 2003. She’s since moved on to writing. Derick Martini, who directed 2008’s Lymelife, was attached to direct at one point. But at last count, the project was trying to reel in Tom Vaughan (What Happens In Vegas) which, no offense because I know how difficult it is to get movies greenlit and part of the challenge is finding a director the studios are willing to fund a movie with, but I really hope this doesn't happen. This needs a director with a little darkness in him. Martini was a more appropriate choice.
Writer: Corinne Kingsbury
Details: 110 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).

Thin Jonah for Larry?

Wait a minute. WHAT?? This script wasn't on last year's Black List?? I guess that's what happens when you sell your script in January. People kind of forget about it 11 months later. I wonder if the screenplay market will ever become like the movie market where everyone will try to get their script sold in the last two weeks of November, so they can make the December Black List. Oh well, it's a good thing that the Black List isn't the only place to learn about great undiscovered screenplays!

Now I can already hear the commenters chirping away about the manufactured setup of this movie (marry me to help me kill myself and I’ll give you my life insurance money) and I can’t argue with you because I admit it's the weakest part of the screenplay. But if you can get past that, you'll find a really well-written story with some great characters.

Larry is 29 years old, depressed as all get-up that his girlfriend left him, and has resorted to suicide to make the pain go away. The problem is, he's not very good at it. While trying to hose carbon monoxide into his car, the trash guys come by and tell him to move so they can get his trash. Later, when he tries to drop a toaster into his bathtub, the plug comes out just a few inches shy of the water. To make matters worse, Larry writes these really lame suicide poems to his ex-girlfriend right before the deed, usually analogies to really geeky movies, like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. In the end, he comes to the realization that he needs help. No, not like psychiatric help. Help offing himself.

Penelope Fletcher is 24 years old and smoking hot. But she's also smoking poor due to her obsession with expensive footwear. Her credit debt has eventually caught up with her and if she doesn't come up with $13,000 soon, she's going to jail.

Every day at work, Penelope and her best friend Amy watch as Larry stumbles around outside, drooling while staring in at Penelope. It's creepy but they know he’s harmless so it's more of an annoyance than anything. But after one staring session too many, Penelope goes out and tries to scare Larry off. It turns out that Larry has overheard about her money problems and thinks he has a solution.

He tells her he needs somebody around to make sure his suicide attempt is successful and is willing to put her on his life insurance policy for 250 grand if she'll do it. Penelope is game but the two find out that in order for her to be on the policy, they need to be married, and more specifically married for at least 31 days. So the two head over to the courthouse, do the deed, and then basically wait for 31 days to expire.

When Penelope finds out that Larry has to pass some health exam to validate the insurance, she forces him to get off his ass and start exercising - not easy for Larry since a typical day for him involves the marijuana merry-go-round. But pretty soon, Penelope finds herself helping Larry in other ways as well - getting his apartment cleaned up, getting him a better wardrobe. In a couple of weeks, Larry actually starts looking like a presentable person.

Of course because they’re spending so much time together, they become close. But like a lot of this script, it doesn't go exactly how you think it's going to go. There's an unpredictability to this story because of Kingsbury’s unique sense of humor and knack for finding the less traveled path. So will Larry end up killing himself at the end? Or will he and Penelope create the single most unlikely pairing in relationship history?

Hot Blake Lively for Penelope?

I really liked this. Yes, there's the issue with the formulaic setup that’s going to send people running. Maybe even back to “The Call Up,” gasp. But I’d implore you to stick with it. Why? Because the characters are pretty damn awesome, that’s why.

I thought Larry’s failed attempts at killing himself were hilarious, reminiscent of a certain cult classic, Better Off Dead, and so I immediately liked him. And Kingsbury somehow made the impossible possible - she made a smoking hot chick who could have anything she wants, sympathetic. So before we get to the clunky conceit of the concept, we get to know and like both these characters enough so that we sort of don’t care.

The thing that really puts this above so many romantic comedies I read though is that it doesn't go for the predictable lame fairytale approach. It's not so much that I hate that type of romantic comedy, so much as I know exactly what's going to happen every step of the way so they bore me to hell.

31 Days Of Larry is a dark script. It's about a guy trying to commit suicide. And as forced as the marriage thing is, you don’t see many romantic comedies where one half of the couple is trying to end their life. Darkness elevates comedy in such a way that it feels real. We’re not pretending to live in a world that doesn’t exist. Bad things happen on this spinning rock and to see a romantic comedy recognize that is refreshing.

Not only that, but it just offers up choices we’ve never seen before. I mean the female lead here is waiting for the male lead to kill himself so she can get her money. That brings up the kind of conversations that you DO NOT SEE in rom-coms. NEW conversations. DIFFERENT conversations. In a world where we know the exact dialogue exchange that’s coming up 15 minutes before our couple does, how refreshing is that? It's something I've preached on the site and will continue to preach. You have to find a different angle into a familiar story. Because pretty much all the stories have been told. They just haven’t been told from your unique point of view.

And I just love when stories place their romantic leads on completely opposite ends of the spectrum to the point where you think there’s no chance in hell they’ll get together. I love when writers explore that challenge because when I was introduced to these two people, I thought, “How in the hell is this writer going to convince us that these two would ever end up together?” And most writers fail (they eventually start forcing things so that the relationship feels unnatural) but in this specific universe that Kingsbury created, she somehow did it. I believed that these two fell for each other.

There's really very little that I didn't like here. It was only that forced set up. If Kingsbury can find a way to smooth that out, this script will be bulletproof. I hope somebody figures that out and yanks this thing out of development hell.

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

What I learned: I know this is going to sound nuts, but when I see a slugline with “I/E.” at the beginning (as I saw in “31 Days Of Larry,”) I know I'm usually dealing with a good writer. “I./E.” is short for “INT./EXT.” which is short for “INTERIOR/EXTERIOR.” Why? Because I know it takes most writers five or six scripts before they encounter a situation where they need to be both inside and outside on a location and know how to actually represent that. And then it takes even longer to learn about the abbreviated version (I./E.). So it’s just a very advanced location indicator.