Playwriting

The Story That Could Be

I like to watch bad movies on purpose. There’s something about sitting through something that has fallen apart, that has huge gaping plot holes, that makes no possible sense, that you can’t believe money was spent on. It’s even better if it’s on DVD and there’s a commentary track. Then you can hear the people involved try to spin their bad movie into something meaningful. It’s truly fascinating.

On the weekend Craig and I watched Love Happens. It’s a rather insipid move with an insipid title staring Jennifer Aniston (insipidmovie seem to be her middle name these days) and Aaron Eckhart. The lonely troubled motivational speaker who doesn’t believe his message with a secret meets….a girl (really there’s nothing more to her character) and they find the meaning of true love. Awww. How absolutely not touching in any way. Completely not engaging, not endearing, not entertaining. In any way.

We loved it. Plus there was a wack of product placement along the way. Nothing says romantic comedy like advertising. I wouldn’t be surprised if no one involved even read the movie, they all just signed up to be in one giant commercial.

So we’re watching this movie and loving the train-wreckness when something started to come through. No, not a heart! Don’t be silly. But, the thing is that somewhere in that pile of complete sopping wet dreck, we started to see something. A glimmer? A shard? A beam? Maybe, just maybe, in-between the poorly drawn characters and the platitudes we were seeing the original draft. The original thought. The shreds and tatters of the first writer’s intention. The complicated character arcs. The real meat of the original story which occurs not between the motivational speaker and the girl but the motivational speaker who can’t help anyone least of all himself and the gruff damaged attendee who is in dire need of help. Maybe the girl was the damaged attendee! That might have been something to watch. That might have had a journey.

I had images of some poor screenwriter slaving away at this well intentioned first draft. Striving to create interesting characterswith real depth and meaning. Striving to create the best work possible, to engage, endear and entertain an audience. Handing in blood, sweat and tears only to be over run by a studio. Damn you studio, damn you! Damn you and your product placement! Damn you and your cardboard cut out characters and your cookie cutter stories! Damn you all to hell!

And then….

I went on imdb and looked at the details on the movie. It was written by the director and the producer. No overrun screenwriter. No original complicated character arcs. The movie on the screen was probably exactly as it was on the page. Which is extremely….. sad. Nothing says Romantic Comedy than a script written by a producer. They probably wrote the product placement in from the very beginning.

Sigh.

Oh well. It was a nice thought. And it was fun thinking about the Story that could have been. I know enough stories about over run writers and screenplays that bear no resemblance between their first draft and their final product. And the movie was much fun to eat popcorn to and malign all the way through.

Seriously though, what made Jennifer Aniston take this part? What made her stand up and say this is the part for me! This is interesting and the farthest thing from a complete waste of time? What goes on in people’s heads?

About the author

Lindsay Price