Screenplay Review: Brick
Now on to the post. One of the film's I am most anticipating for this year (and in fact one of my most anticipated in a long time) is opening in two short weeks. Brick was one of the first scripts that I read professionally that I actually gave a RECOMMEND. The company didn't end up picking it up (and I'll discuss that, a bit, later in the post), and neither did any other studio, apparently. In the end, writer-director Rian Johnson had to make the film independently. It showed at last year's Sundance Festival, where it received a special award for originality of vision, and Focus picked it up for distribution after that.
I read it way back in early August 2001, and I've been keeping my eyes open for this film for a very long time. I still have not seen the movie at any advance screenings, but everyone I know who has seen it so far has loved it. Hopefully I'll catch it during the opening weekend (3/31 in limited release). And if anyone wants to come with, and have a late birthday celebration with me (I turn 35 on Saturday 3/25), let me know!
First of all, I just want to say how happy I am that this film is finally being released. But it also shows just how hard it can sometimes be to get a good film made. As I said, I read this script over 4 1/2 years ago. Then, it took a few years to get made and get onto the festival circuit. And even after it was picked up, it still took over a year until it was released! So I implore any of you who are into this kind of movie, and who think they might be interested in seeing it, to get out and support it early, to make sure it gets the extended theatrical release it so deserves.
That being said, let me give you a bit of info about the film. Brick is a dark and hip film noir set in the world of a contemporary high school. The story is solid, but more important (as is typical in films noir) is the overwhelmingly pervasive sense of tone and style that Johnson brings to his script.
After the company for whom I read it passed on buying Brick, I asked my boss there why they didn't. He agreed with me that it was a very well-written script, but said that they didn't want to make a film with such edgy subject matter. The film presents generally realistic portrayals of teen murder and drug use/abuse.
I understood their point (though I lamented the decision), but I wonder how much the popularity of a teen noir show like Veronica Mars might have changed their decision (and/or influenced Focus'). That being said, while fans of Veronica Mars should also enjoy Brick, they are a far cry from each other. Brick is much darker, edgier, and realistic, making Veronica look like The Gilmore Girls in comparison.
Bottom line, you'll like this film if you like edgy teen films, film noir, solid crime films, and the like. It isn't for everyone, but I think the audience is out there, and I really hope the film gets all the success it deserves.
Now onto the details. First, my logline:
A teenager infiltrates a suburban drug underworld to avenge the death of his ex-girlfriend.
The "Brief" of my comments:
A well-written and stylish noir thriller aimed at an audience XXXXX is eager to tap. There are few weaknesses in this script, and those that exist pale when overpowered by the script's strengths.
Finally, my general comments (it was early in my "reading career" so these aren't the best-written notes, but they'll do):
Brick is a solidly stylish noir thriller. What sets it apart, however, is that it is set in high school, but is totally believable. It avoids melodrama, creates a twisty plot with good reversals, and populates its setting with solid characters. brick has the potential to be a breakout success, with some juicy roles for hot teen actors, and is aimed squarely at the audience XXXXX wants to hit. It should have no problem drawing them in.
Johnson's script benefits most from its clever setting and style. His characters' dialogue is full of slang terms, but terms that seem natural, full of the abbreviated speech that teens frequently use. Even though you may not be familiar with the specific slang, context is enough to make things clear, in the same way that dialogue worked in A Clockwork Orange, though this slang is admittedly less complex. The world Johnson has created for his setting is almost entirely populated by teens, and they are not innocent at all. Among other clever stylistic touches is the fact that Kara is always in the theater, day or night. Anyone who knew drama people in school know this is accurate. Kara spends every moment of her life in the theater.
More importantly, however, Johnson's plot is equally pleasing. While twisting through various reversals, and revelations of criminal activities, Brick remains totally believable. Think of Kids as a starting point for our characters, then let them loose on a straight story of crime and intrigue. This script feel like Cruel Intentions without the melodrama, but with all the style. At its heart, however, Brick is a film noir, updated for today's generation. Laura is a perfect femme fatale. The dialogue has the familiar snap of a film like The Big Sleep or Double Indemnity. At the same time, however, the story doesn't feel dated at all. There are a few minor weaknesses in the plot, but these are overpowered by the style and thrust of this script. For example, why does Brendan try to stop the battle between Tug and The Pin? If he wants revenge, what better way than to have them kill each other? But things like this pass unnoticed simply due to the story's strengths.
Johnson's characters are also enjoyable to watch. Brendan is an interesting hero. He is a sort of empty vessel, not really fitting into any specific type. He is the prototypical outsider, not even well-known enough to be considered a loser. He isn't a loser, but he also isn't a member of any other clique. He's simply a loner on a mission. Laura is crafty, and Kara, though a bit less substantive, could be a fun role for a budding actress. Tug begins as a mere hooligan, but gains some depth later on. And all these characters offer solid roles for up-and-coming, or already established hot teen properties.
What makes this script most appealing, however, is that in addition to being a well-written and stylish script, it is aimed squarely at the market that is hot. Teen films have been performing well. Adding to Brick's potential for success is the fact that it can be made without major expenditure. This film should have little trouble recouping its costs, and could easily become a popular favorite in ancillary markets as well.
COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL: This film should become a commercial success. It is aimed at an audience that has been loyal to its favorite actors for quite a few years now. Its style should draw in bigger audiences, and its well written plot could keep them coming back for a second viewing.
(Yes, I did start by saying the setting and style were "most" beneficial, and then said it was "more important" that the plot worked. And yes, I did end by saying the way it aims at and hits the teen market was "most appealing." As I said, this was not that well-written!)
Anyway, this was a really good script, and I can't wait to see it come to life on the big screen!
Tags: Brick, Rian+Johnson, film+noir, screenwriting