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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Screenplay Review: Pretty Persuasion

I've been waiting a few weeks to post this, but now that the film is being (platform) released today, figured I could put it up now.

I read this script (draft dated 6/15/04) just a few weeks ago as a writing sample for screenwriter Skander Halim, with a specific project of the company for whom I was reading it in mind. I can't really quote the whole comments page, since it is still recent, and relates to the project, but I will pull out a few lines from my comments, and summarize them as well.

First off, I'm actually somewhat surprised by the less-than-glowing reviews I've read for this film. They've referred to it as unfunny, and an unoriginal film that wants to be seen as similar to films such as Election. While I won't deny there are a few similarities between this film and others, I still felt it was a largely original and well-written piece of work. And truly humorous as well, though darkly so. I can only imagine two possible reasons why the reviews have been so poor: they didn't get it (less likely, since the reviews seem to be somewhat universally weak) or the film got ruined somewhere between script and screen.

This latter possibility happens all too often, and since I have not seen the film, but rather only read the script (notice this is a "Screenplay Review" not a "Film Review"), I cannot speak to this here. And as I will often tell people when they complain about how much crap makes it to the screen these days: "It's pretty easy to make a bad movie from a good script, and almost impossible to make a good one from a bad script."

Anyway, on to my comments, edited down for confidentiality:

Pretty Persuasion is a very well-written film that captures reality with a dark and twisted sense. It offers up its share of humor, and the comedy works well, though in a very bitingly satirical manner. Still, while the screenplay clearly shows Halim to be a talented writer, and one with a handle on realistic humor, it is the script's very dark side that gives some pause. The key issue here is whether Halim can write equally well in a different, lighter style, and still remain entertaining and humorous. Furthermore, the script also suggests some weakness of structure, which may be a greater issue in a more mainstream type of film.

There is no question that Halim is a talented writer. Pretty Persuasion is both humorous, insightful, and moving. It contains complex characters and situations that are simultaneously realistic and heightened enough to be more entertaining than watching a mere slice of life. He does a wonderful job of making his points and getting his messages across, while also writing a film that moves quickly and doesn't get bogged down in exposition. It is a screenplay that is sure to provoke discussion.

Furthermore, Halim's structure in Pretty Persuasion is a bit rough at times. In particular, the introduction and coda both seem too lengthy. While such issues may work adequately in an artsier indie style film such as this one, they may not fly in a more mainstream film.

In case anyone was wondering, I gave Halim a STRONG CONSIDER (more than a CONSIDER but less than a RECOMMEND) as a writer. My point is that he's really written a wonderful script here. While the plot is mildly derivative in parts, overall I think it addresses some serious issues in mature fashion. And I truly meant it when I said that the script is really funny, though darkly so. But many of the script's funnier lines and moments are rather subtle, which may account for some of the reviews. Still, I feel they played realistically (a very difficult brand of humor to sell and make work), and I laughed out loud a few times while reading the script. I'm sure you can imagine how infrequently his happens.

Bottom line: I'd recommend you ignore any negative reviews and go out and see this flick. It is certainly possible that the movie failed while the script worked, and if so, use it as an educational experience! Try to see the written screenplay underlying the film, if need be.


On another note, I just wanted to give an update on the Writers Faire. The schedule is up, and while many of the panels seem a bit more "beginners level," the event still looks good overall. And hey, did I happen to mention that it's free? So I'll probably attend. Let me know if any of you plan to do so as well!

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Blogger TN_Dreamer said...

hmmm. it'd be interesting to see what differences were made to turn a good script into a bad film. too bad it's not playing in my area.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Norm said...

I agree. I got to cover this while interning for a prod. co. and I loved it. But even better was Halim's "Perfect Ghost," which also just recently sold.

Hope that one gets a better translation.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Yeah Norm. I haven't read that one yet, but heard about it. Seems interesting.

Dreamer -- there are tons of ways a good script could be turned into a bad movie. Just a few: changes to the script that ruined it (I may not have read the final version), poor acting, a director who doesn't "get" the script (particularly with such subtle material as this) and goes too over the top or something, alterations made on set, and/or alterations during editing or simply poor editing.

But yeah, this is yet another reason for you to move to "the big city to pursue your dream!"

If and when I see this film, I'll try to remember to repost with my impressions.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look forward to seeing the film but what does 'coda' mean in a screenwriting context? 3rd act? Denoument? Afterword?


Oxford International says:
1 SPECIALIZED a piece of music at the end of a longer piece of music, which is usually separate from the basic structure:
'The coda is often more technically difficult than the rest of the piece'.
2 FORMAL the final or additional part of a speech, event or piece of writing:
'In a coda to the main exhibition are various works which were once attributed to Rembrandt'.

Coda, in music, is a passage which brings a movement or piece to a conclusion through prolongation.

Which meaning comes closest to your meaning?


1:39 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Hey Anna, thanks for checking in, and a perfectly valid question to ask.

In this scenario, I was using the word somewhat figuratively. You've no doubt heard the terms climax and resolution, yes? The climax being the moment towards the end of a film in which the primary story line, from hook on through the film, reaches its ending. Whereas the term resolution may be applied to the entire third act (at least as defined by Syd Field, though I don't believe he uses the term "climax"). Oftentimes, following the true climax, there are some more scenes in which other aspects of storylines or character are wrapped up, or sometimes where they show what happens after the climax. That was what I was referring to as the Coda here. Material that was preceded by the actual climax, but which wrapped up other stuff and looked a bit further into what happened to the various central characters.

Hope that helps!

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks! Good explanation.


2:47 AM  

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