Thursday, June 04, 2009
So I've been out of commission for a while, finishing the revisions on my script about the sassy retro stewardesses, but I've managed to catch a few movies here and there, and finally finish the Masterpiece Theatre version of Little Dorrit. First things first.
Dickens' fraught relationship with the Marshalea Debtors' Prison created some of his most complex characters. All the main players in Little Dorrit are nuanced, layered and fallible, from the prideful and pretentious -- yet pathetic and vulnerable -- patriarch William Dorrit to the smug but sweet do-gooder Arthur Clennam to Little Dorrit herself, a rather ghoulish young lady who seems to thrive when those around her are in need of saving. She and Mr. Clennam both have slight martyr complexes, which makes them such a dandy match for one another.
Century-old societal critique doesn't always hold up, but Dickens' eye for hypocrisy outlasts social trends, and Little Dorrit's narrative of financial ruin tells a story as old as the moon and cyclical as the tides (I believe we're in the midst of some sort of slight financial crisis now, aren't we?). From a modern perspective I must admit I don't see the logic behind debtors' prisons.... how on earth are you supposed to pay back your debts if you don't work? Baffling.
The minor and peripheral characters are the broadest, silliest and most delightful. I was especially fond of Edmund Sparkler and his funny little turns of phrase: "Dad wasn't a bad old stick" and, of course, "No begod nonsense about her." As always, there's a great big lovely happy ending in which Mr. Clennam and Little Dorrit are married, and nothing solves everyone's problems forever like a wedding.
While the concept had potential, I suspected there might be third act problems when I read the script, and was disappointed to see the final (filmed) product confirm my suspicions. The first two thirds are an amusing romp peopled with outlandish personae; by the end, though, the repetitious heist/con pattern grows wearying (didn't McKee warn you about the law of diminishing returns? he actually was right about that, you know), and humor is sacrificed to mawkish drawn-out fraternal histrionics. It should have ended in Mexico ("I don't want to impugn an entire country, but Mexico's a terrible place"). More proof that tonal shifts can be pulled off by only the most delicate of touches.
In A Lonely Place
A master class in dramatic writing. Seriously. Besides adhering admirably to Aristotle's unities, and showing all action arising logically from character, and never permitting any disruption of the narrative, and showing-not-telling, and, well, the list goes on. Let's just say this script does everything a good screenplay should, and every aspiring writer should watch it. An added bonus: the source novel was one of the few hardboiled noirs written by a woman, and was reprinted by CUNY's Feminist Press in 2003. Bogart, good writing, genre, woman authors, and CUNY? Why, it's simply got everything. Oh, and some guy named Nick Ray directed it. He isn't bad either.
This just in: David Bowie's son has written and directed an intelligent, original, low-budget sci-fi indie. Seriously. He goes by the name Duncan Jones, precisely to avoid being written about as he is here, and he just made a really, really good movie. It opens in select theatres on June 12, and if you're even remotely intrigued by sci-fi you won't be disappointed. Both an elegant homage to classic genre milestones and a highly original, conceptual foray into identity and loss, plus! actual legitimate science, technical mastery, and a super-strong performance from Sam Rockwell, Moon is a refreshing indie experience that schools us all in what you can do with talent, brains, imagination and five million dollars.