(Click here if you missed Part One.)
To conclude my script review, I’d like to share six personal insights that I took away from the Mary Rose experience.
* First and foremost, there is magic in the fun, playful dialogue of J.M. Barrie’s characters. It’s infectious. At the ripe young age of sixty, Barrie was still having fun with his powerful imagination and bringing his brand of playfulness to the proceedings, as if, “hey, everybody, let’s have fun together!” Too many of us are too damn serious with our scripts, and we’ve forgotten to have fun or to bring a sense of joy to our work. And when Barrie’s plays turn emotional, or even tragic, there is a great tenderness to his approach that I found so refreshing. Even when we’re in the midst of the tragedy of Harry speaking with his ghost of a mother, he could’ve turned bitter and angry about it all, but no. He is good-natured about it. He cares about helping her. He makes the most of his time with her, and in the process, we go through this kind of tender therapy about letting go a loved one.
* Mary Rose proves that logic isn’t as important as emotional content. The island makes no sense whatsoever. But, ya know, we recognize the themes contained in the story, the emotions the characters are feeling about losing a loved one, about letting go, and the play hits all the right emotional points where it counts: the fun in the beginning, the sadness of loss, and sense of liberation in the end. We go to feel and because J.M. Barrie makes us feel something, we give ourselves over to the story – even when it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.
* I don’t blame the studio for passing on the script. In its present form, I would’ve passed on it as well. The magic of the third act does not compensate for all horribly static scenes that preceded it. But, ya know, I also came up with a fun creative writing exercise - to imagine all the ways that I could break up those excessively talkative scenes, especially those first two scenes, to make it more visually stimulating, while also honoring Barrie’s playfulness. I may return to that periodically as a writing exercise for myself.
* Another aspect that bothered me about Jay Presson Allen’s script was not only the excessive amount of dialogue in those first two scenes but the dialogue itself. She covers all of the necessary plot points of the story (and in many cases points that never needed to be made) but what she failed to capture was the playfulness of the words themselves. This script was more about resuscitating Hitchcock’s career than it ever was honoring Barrie’s craft, and some really treasured elements of the play would’ve been lost in transition.
* While I didn’t like the way they handled it, I admired the decision to actually show Mary’s death after her return from the island. That was not in the play. I can’t help but wonder how I would handle it. Once she sees that Harry’s missing, she should try to run away. Then some kind of accident, perhaps, falling down the stairs? I’m not sure.
* I have to say that Hitch and Allen made all the right decisions about the third act. In fact, the way that they handled Kenneth’s conversation with his ghost mother is very close to how I believe I would’ve approached the ending. In the play, the conversation sort of reaches an impasse. He didn’t know how to get rid of her. She didn’t know how to leave. Plus, they weren’t sure where she could even go. And after a bit of time, she gets sleepy and the island takes her back. In the script, Mary wants to go back to the island, and that is far more satisfying. Also in the script, he’s a bit more forthright about being her son, although she never figures it out, which was good. That scene would’ve never worked if she realized he’s her son. It would’ve lost that magic. One thing I would change. I would’ve had Kenneth/Harry ask her to please stay a little bit longer… and then let her go.