Friday, 23 October 2009

The Lovely Bones, The Visitor, Last Chance Harvey. - [Notes on Last Screenplays Read]

Yesterday I read three screenplays and so I thought I'd have a collective round up of thoughts and offer up an Award for the Best Screenplay of the Day. (Note: There are no spoilers).

Firstly, The Lovely Bones, written by the team behind The Lord of the Rings and based on the best selling book of the same name. It was an interesting read simply because it was different from any script I have read or film I have seen.

Going in I was aware it was the story of a murdered young girl who narrates her story from heaven, which is known from the outset. But instead of entering a potentially dark drama about the loss of a child, I was swept up and surprised with its often light-hearted nature at times and from within her viewpoint of death from heaven. It offers such an interesting contrast to the events and emotions on the ground and a very brave way of approaching such poignant and horrific subject matter.

It is a heartbreaking and tragic story but those emotions aren't solely relied upon and enforced to carry you through, as that's not so much the angle of the story being told. It's achieved in an often light-hearted way with dramatic and suspenseful moments. It's interesting that as an audience you're so angry at the crime but find yourself forgetting about it at moments and being amused at some of the things the girl says or a moment or two within the family as we pass through the years; offering some much needed relief from the unapproachable and quite frankly inconceivable thing that's happened.

However, it wasn't an incredible read, (although the more i think about it, it kind of is) but it was different, structured in a way i hadn't seen or read before, naturally powerful due its nature and subject matter, but handled in such a unique and sheltered way. I did want it to go to those high emotional and dramatic places, which the characters didn't as such, but then again, I suppose that has been done many times before and like i said, this was different to anything I've read or seen. I applaud them for adapting/making it and just hope that the film turns out really well because it deserves to.

Second is, The Visitor. It was an interesting read for one major reason and that it didn't appear to be good enough to be made.

At first, I expected a horror or thriller of some kind as I went blindly into it, which is the way I like to go into screenplays. But I was surprised with a drama essentially about illegal immigrants from the view point of a lost and lonesome college professor.

At the end, I was aware that although it was naturally a powerful story, it just had something missing, some personality and real drama. It didn't go to the emotional places i wanted it to and generally thought as a film, it would go to. I was unsure to whether it was the real deal and wondered if it had been made. I thought the potential was avoided and was left with a sour thought of 'How can that be it?' I wanted more. The script was so basic in its detail and personality or lacking rather that it didn't feel like a professional screenplay. It was a competent read but just not what I thought would be enough.

Bare with me...

Anyway, so i hopped over to Apple Trailers and found its trailer. It was nominated for an Oscar and has won many, many awards! And the trailer, is awesome! The performances looked great and the cast spot on. It looked like it held together really well on such simple and basic drama. It was a little shock and nice surprise because the script was so basic in every detail and i thought missed out on its potential in drama and character bonding. It glided lightly over the surface, I thought.

That then told me two things, the actors and actresses on the film did an incredible job because i didn't feel or read much emotion in the script, everybody was constantly coming and going and hardly stayed for long, and two, there can be scripts that are so subtle, simple and only briefly touch on the drama potential, and that is enough itself. I am aware of that last one, but the script was such a surprisingly sparse and lacking read that I did wonder if it would be enough.

The director also wrote it, which is a factor and one where I can imagine specifically allowed the freedom for the actors and actresses to portray the roles and had confidence in himself as a director to achieve the performances, and so didn't feel the need to write them into the script as such.

But I have more respect for it now as a whole and it was a great lesson to fully realise with a proven and successful example.

The Third was, Last Chance Harvey. It was an interesting read for many reasons. The first is due to the fact I had seen the trailer awhile back, and thought, 'A funny stiff-upper-lip scene,' but hasn't all this awkward romance meeting stuff been done before? It was intriguing nonetheless. But the main factor was that I was aware of the actor and actress who played the two lead roles. So they were obviously coming along for the journey as well.

So going in with decidedly low expectations and hoping to be proved wrong - I was and pleasantly so. I found a moving and often amusing story of an estranged father who arrives in London for his daughter's wedding and subsequently meets a woman, suffering from the pressures of being single and reaching forty. They get off on the wrong foot and in a situation that would see most guys would walk embarrassingly away from and with some dignity. But not Harvey.

It was a delight to read and I didn't want it to end. It had such a great blend of subtle humour and drama that made it a really pleasant and mature read. It's a testament to the writer because I feel like I know these characters and that they are people I have met and spent time with. And ultimately, I think that's the goal of a good screenplay to achieve such a personal connection with the audience and this one had it. I really loved it. Kudos.

And so without further ado and all that malarkey...

The Award for Best Screenplay of the Day goes to:


The Award for Special Jury Prize of the Day goes to:


Till next time.

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