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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.

Monday, September 14, 2009

FFFJ: Dorian Gray

The impetus for me posting to the blog today was this review I read in The Hollywood Reporter, about the new film Dorian Gray that screened at Toronto International Film Festival. I remembered that I had read the screenplay for it a little over a year ago (in June of 2008). So I thought it would be a great opportunity to post another in my continuing series FFFJ: From the Files of Fun Joel.

Many of you know the story that the film is based on, but in case you don't, here's my Logline for the screenplay:

"Young heir, turned on to hedonism, maintains his youthful appearance while a portrait ages and shows his soul's true blackness."

Ultimately, I gave this screenplay a WEAK CONSIDER and the writer a CONSIDER. My main reason for this was that the script was well-written, but the style seemed very odd for today's audiences. And I think that Brunette's review in THR picks up on similar things. He writes:

Whether or not the re-interpretation is always successful is another question entirely, but superb production values and imaginative, vigorous camerawork, music, and editing should carry the film a long way. It's not exactly clear who the audience is for this occasionally subtle literary adaptation that also aspires, almost against its will, to be a horror movie, but it deserves to find an audience somewhere.

So, on to my critique then. Here are the comments I wrote on Toby Finlay's screenplay:

Dorian Gray is a well-written gothic horror script based on the famous Oscar Wilde novel. Yet while it is as good an adaptation as could be, the fact remains that the story feels dated and may not appeal to modern audiences. Coupling this with the budget such a period film will likely require, the film becomes a much less promising commercial endeavor. Bottom line, if this type of film is on XXXX’s agenda, this could be an excellent choice for production. But on its own merits, the film would likely not be the strongest candidate for development.

While there is much to like in this story, the style remains firmly rooted in another time. Gothic horror of this nature is far removed from the style of horror that plays well today. And though the story is certainly not without its charms, it remains a dated style. Because of this, Dorian Gray may have a difficult time finding a sizable audience. Finlay, it should be noted, has done a good job of at least attempting to update the story. The addition of Emily, the excising of some of the more dated sequences (e.g. the hunting party), the extension of the book’s time span, and the greater grounding in the birth of modernism are all adjustments that help widen the film’s appeal. But it still seems unlikely to be enough, as the story’s core maintains the same feel.

At the same time, should XXXX be in the market for a film of this nature, despite its built-in problems, this script would be as good as any of its type. It is a solid effort with good pacing and excellent structure. Characters are strong, as is dialogue. And Finlay is also worthy of further consideration as well. But most probably, the film is unlikely to succeed commercially.

With a relatively large budget and a dated feel that will alienate many audiences, this film will be fighting an uphill battle to find commercial viability.

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Less Than a Year

So people ask me periodically if my blog is dead. I tell them it is more like "retired." Not in the sense of a sports player whose number is "retired." When that happens, no one gets to wear that number again, so it is taken out of circulation.

I mean it more in the sense of a guy who retires from his job, but might still occasionally pop back into the office to say Hi, answer some questions, and maybe even do a drop of work.

So that's my intention for now. I don't suspect I will be a "full-time" blogger again. But I don't want to shut it down entirely. I'd rather just post occasionally, whenever I feel I have something else worthwhile to say. I know that means I will probably not have a very large readership, but so be it. If anyone cares to read and/or comment, I welcome you and your loyalty. If not, I'll just write for the heck of it!

All this by way of intro to my next post, to come momentarily. :-)