Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bob Thielke Reviews “The Senator’s Wife”


Hey guys,

Many of you guys know our close friend,
Bob Thielke.

I’ve blogged about his work a couple of times:
On Character Arcs and Father Max. He contributed to our last Script Club meeting with a superb review for James Cameron’s Crowded Room. He’s an “Environmental Scientist by Day, Father of two beautiful daughters and husband to my mahvelous wife by Night, and aspiring screenwriter during lunch hours and late nights.” He has 8 scripts under his name with little blue stars indicating that they have been Top Ten Favorites on TriggerStreet. On any given day, you’ll see at least one of his scripts sitting in the Top Ten.

And like so many others, he is a very respected Reviewer of the Month.

Thanks so much, Bob.

-MM

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Apparently, Mr. Rice and Ms. Fugate have clearly never been through the rigors of a Triggerstreet round of reviews. There’s a wheelbarrow full of little format problems such as labeling slug lines incorrectly (or not having them at all- see the very first scene of the story – no slug line), not properly introducing characters, and not using inserts or voice overs properly. But I’ll not mention that anymore in the review because these two folks have been lucky enough to escape the spec script gauntlet, they know the secret handshake, and they got a script to go to production. I’ll concentrate on the elements of story and character and see what I can offer.

First off, I’d like to address the tone and theme of this script. What does it want to be? Does it want to be a comedy or a drama? Sometimes they are trying to be poignant and then they have scenes that remind you of a Farrelly Brothers script. The message of this script to me was to be true to yourself and your past as evidenced by Rosalind’s eventual acceptance of her past life. However, when the driving force of the entire script, Joel, was deceiving Rosalind the entire time, it is the exact opposite message. He never told her or donny that he was actually Rosalind’s son. As much as I hate to criticize dying 10 year old boys, his actions were extremely hypocritical. The net result is that the message of the movie is a wash; it’s a neutral slate in which I didn’t learn or feel anything.

Initially all the characters were not very likable. Donny was, well Donny. Somebody who would cuss at a kid for no apparent reason isn’t someone I’m feeling empathy towards. As the story progresses, he’s softening up again but when he calls Joel the “little fucker” at his gravesite it just made me hate him even more and the relationship between him and Rosalind just seems so hollow to me. Rosalind was initially so cold and sterile as the senator’s wife that I found her very unlikable too. I grew to like her at the end when she finally lets all the walls down and becomes her old self. Joel was not believable to me. I hate to be a wet blanket but the kid lives in a poor orphanage so where does he have enough access to computers to learn how to hack computers? He’s just way, way to sophisticated and street smart for a ten year old kid. And why would he use such a risky idea as to hide Donny’s numbers book to get down to Florida to see his Mom. He knows where she is, why doesn’t he take the train down there. His entire character seemed contrived to me. A critical plot point in this story was what revealing the truth to Arthur would do to his senate campaign and to their marriage. Therefore, it seems prudent to have us feel a little more for their relationship. It seemed almost more like a business partnership. In order to feel for Rosalind’s dilemma, I think this relationship needs to be built up in order to make the risk involved with losing it more tangible. It almost would work better if Rosalind was the one running for Senate, and she didn’t have a husband.

I think the most professional aspect of this story is the dialogue. It’s functional and strikes me as realistic. There are several places where characters pontificate too long, but it wasn’t bad.

I was a little antsy about the inciting event not happening till pg 16 I believe, especially until a link was made between the two disparate stories (Donny vs. Rosalind), I was trying to figure out what these two stories had to do with each other. Then at the end, I wasn’t really sure where the third act started. I kept thinking, what is the event that would force Rosalind to make a crucial can’t turn back from decision and really it was finding out that Joel was dying and that he was her son. However, there is one scene where they visit Joel and then the final scene where he’s dead. It was obvious she decided to leave her life in Florida to be with Joel, but that was all told to us and not shown. I think it would be way more effective to end the story on an up note of having Rosalind and Joel ride the swamp fox, instead of this bittersweet gravesite stuff with rememberance of their time together. I think the third act needed to consist of Rosalind deciding to stay with Joel and say goodbye to her life as a Senator’s wife, have to make a public mea culpa about lying about her past, then reconnect with Joel and take him on the Swamp Fox as a final scene.

The story is what I’d like to call an Emmenthaller Story. It has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. I’ll just give a few of the most glaring examples.

Donny inconsistencies: Why would a judge place bets with a two bit guy like Donny, when he could do off-shore betting or drive down to Atlantic City, how does Donny get past the armed guard into the judges chambers, he’s a street wise guy but never notices Joel hanging around long enough and in close enough proximity to have his routine down cold, he recognizes Rosie from behind in the dark at the hotel, when Donny opens the trunk how is it possible for Rosalind to punch him in the jaw unless she’s Elastigirl from the Incredibles, Donny rents a car using a fake credit card but he gives his real name (otherwise the police wouldn’t be able to trace him to Florida), why wouldn’t Donny have the restaurants number in his cell phone considering he practically lives there, and how did Donny know the story about this Ian kid? Didn’t he get arrested for kidnapping or something (where’s his trial?).

Rosalind inconsistencies: Rosalind wouldn’t think her husband could check the obituaries in Atlanta, Quentin the reporter never followed up on the boarding school story even though he was determined to dig up something on her past, learning French from cassette tapes while working at Whataburger may not be a hole per se but is a ridiculous explanation for her ability to speak French, It seems a little weird that a 30 year old woman would have been geeking out about star wars in 1997 to the point she’d name her kid after luke skywalker (oh well),

Overall- This story is missing an internal logic that is evident in a story that is riddled with plot inconsistencies, contrivances, and stretches of the imagination. It was hard to root for the characters because my initial impression of them is so negative. Finally the story didn’t have a strong third act in which the climactic actions you’d expect from Rosalind are told to us and not shown.

A few miscellaneous notes:
- Thank God for hidden corridors behind the confessional!
- Can you believe they run out of gas just as the tornado is on their tail?
- Would they let a kid in the strip club watch a lap dance?
- Hate to say this but if the moonshine festival is nov 4th and 5th, that’s one day after the national election day for offices like senator and the like. (Nov. 3),
- If a tornado is close enough to be throwing debris why is everyone in the strip joint acting as if nothing is happening.
- Why didn’t the good sisters at the home tell the detectives about his cancerous condition?
- Pg 85- Is there a cab in the hotel hallway? Otherwise we’d need an outside slug.

8 comments:

Matthew Spira said...

I think this is a really solid review, but kind of misses the point.

If you were going to take this script as an assigment, would your end result really deliver more?

-Matt

bob said...

If I took this as an assignment heres what I would do.

First off I'd rebuild the third act to show ros admitting publically to her past life, get Joel out of the hospital, and take him down to the Swamp Fox. (and I'd end the movie there)

Secondly, I wouldn't try to force any kind of romantic relationship between Donny and Rosalind. Why does a woman always need a man to be complete? Donny decides to go straight but he says goodbye after Joel lands in the hospital.

I'd make Joel alot more like a ten year old. Instead of being a calculating hacker who cons people. I'd make him more vulnerable, more deparate to get to his mom.

I'd either introduce the senator into the script alittle more and make us feel more for their relationship; or I'd make her the one who's running for senate. As is, he seems more like a meal ticket than a husband and the stakes of having her past come out just didn't seem that great.

I'd fix all the annoying little details that made me roll my eyes.

The only thing I didn't mention in my review is that I would do some things to make her a far less passive protagonist.

I honestly do think I could deliver a draft that would add a lot more to ths draft. But that's just my opinion!!

bob said...

oh by the way MM,

thanks for the kind words in your intro!! You're my guru, man.

GimmeABreak said...

And I thought I was a hardass. ;-)

bob said...

I supposed I could have been a tad nicer. But I'm just trying to look out for my girl, Jenn.

Mystery Man said...

I know!

Bob is usually one of the more kinder, nicer reviewers on TS. Am I wrong? I'm usually surprised by how pleasant he can be on TS for stories far worse than this. But, you know, if something about a script bugs you, you gotta write it out. It's better to talk about things that bug you and be open to being wrong than to say nothing at all.

With respect to formatting, there were a few things that bugged me, but compared to some of the scripts I've seen lately on TS, this felt a lot more cleaned up, and I was very happy about that.

To Matt's question, it's hard to say, because this kind of story could go either way as a very serious drama or a comedy. If this was an assignment, my first question would be, "what do you want? A drama or a comedy?" I suspect they'd say something like "oh, just a lighthearted drama, nothing too serious." What that means is, "we want to laugh and feel good in the end," which is basically, a comedy. I'd probably cut Donny and all stuff about the mobsters and this road trip and going up to New York, and just keep it in Florida. It would be two weeks before the election, the big issue of the campaign is adoption, and suddenly, this kid shows up. Unlike what happened here, I would've definitely had a public scandal, a revelation about her and her past, he'd lose the election, they'd get a divorce, but she keeps the kid in the end and has found happiness. Sounds formulaic, but a better foundation for this story.

-MM

Mystery Man said...

Oops! I was saying "I know" in reaction to Pat's comment. By the time I finished writing my comment, Bob posted a new one!

Mim said...

I think we're tending to be harder on this script because it's supposed to be at professional level and it's not.

If it were on TS, I probably would have been nicer in my review. We all seem to be a tad disappointed.