Tallying all these rankings for the Reader Top 25 (yes, it's now going to be the Top 25) has been exhausting. Plus I gotta get ready for Halloween Week as well as prepare for the Logline Contest. That's a long way of saying it's time for another guest review. Today's review is from author Erica Kennedy, whose novel, "Feminista" just recently hit bookstores. She's a big fan of Scriptshadow and we recently got to discussing a script review. She likes romantic comedies and I've been meaning to check out Swingles for awhile so I thought it was the perfect fit. Another interesting tidbit is that Swingles will be Zach Braff's directorial follow-up to Garden State. For some of you that will sound disastrous and for others it's great news. I actually like Braff, so I'm interested to see how he'll squeeze the big-budget high-octane sensibilities of Cameron Diaz into his more restrained view of the world. Here's Erica with her review...
Premise: Two people whose best friends fall in love and leave them without their wingman and wingwoman join forces to help each other find mates.
About: This is a spec sale from 2006. Cameron Diaz has signed on to star. Zach Braff is set to direct which will be his first feature since 2004's Garden State. He's also doing a rewrite after Duncan Birmingham wrote the original spec, and Jeff Roda took a crack at a draft. And that's not all. Braff might play a supporting role. They're still searching for the male lead. This is the original draft by Birmingham that sold.
Writers: Duncan Birmingham
Okay, after reading the summary of this, I was totally down. Every time I've seen an article about wingmen/women, I think it's a perfect movie premise. But I don't ever start writing one because I knew someone else would and here it is. Even tho I don't understand Cam's choices sometimes (was the 2008 release "What Happens in Vegas" locked in a vault since '03?), I like her as an independent, late 30's and doesn't need to be married, surfboarding, moneymaking babe so I could totally see her in the part of the sharp-tongued woman who the as-yet-unnamed male lead can't stand...and since this is a rom-com, do I need to add "at first"?
We meet Diane, Cam's character, a high-strung accountant who's billed as the less glam of the two female friends, by page 4 but the whole first act belongs to Val Danko, an immature 29 year-old graphic designer at Quality Manuals, a company that makes direction manuals for assemble-at-home products. First of all, I love that professional assignation because we know he's creative but working in a dull-ass job which is succinctly summed up in a brief exchange where his middle-aged boss (who becomes a funny secondary character) chides him about his use of "arial narrow". Picturing Val in his cubicle in his old concert tees totally made me understand why his whole identity is wrapped up in bagging as many chicks as he can.
Problem is he can't bag chicks without the help of his wingman, Nathan, a more genuine sort who has outgrown their post-collegiate hijinx and quickly jumps at the chance to move in with (and soon propose to) the smart and pretty Rachel, Diane's bestie.
Now I have to say here that in the last few months, I feel like I've read four scripts that have some variation on this premise: lifelong, now thirty-something buds torn apart by the woman who actually wants to have a serious relationship with -- or God forbid, marry -- one of them. And this whole "dude, you took her to karaoke? that's our thing!" schtick feels very, very gay to me. I immediately have a bias against these characters because then I feel like, Dude, what kind of loser/pussy are you?
This is exactly what goes on in Swingles for the entire first act but Val is so deep in denial and his dialogue is so snappy that, despite my admitted bias, I couldn't help but laugh. But you know what really made this work for me? Once he and Diane, also wingless and floundering, join forces she says all the things I want to say to these guys and I fucking loved her for it!
At first, she either reacts to his childish antics by ignoring him (precisely) or basically saying, "That's the dumbest shit I ever heard and why are you wearing that concert tee? Grow up!" But the great thing about her character, a successful accountant who put herself through Yale, is that she's a desperate singleton too, no doubt about it (sometimes I was almost cringing). But I never felt like she was pathetic. I just felt for her. This is a tricky thing to pull off and I think now that a lot of the big female A-listers - Aniston, Zellwegger, Lopez, Bullock -- are aged out of the rom-com ingenue category, it's something screenwriters need to learn how to do. Because a woman like Diane who has accomplished so much professionally, a sister who's out there doing it for herself, would probably feel like she shouldn't care that she's single but the fact that she does (a lot) would make her feel like a big fat loser. And then she needs a guy like Val to help her? Ouch. I think if you're writing for an actress we all know is pushing (or beyond) 40, you need to be mindful of this. Because what's endearing at 29 can easily become sad at 39.
Knowing C-Diaz is playing Diane, I'm really interested to see who they cast as Val because these are both great parts. Remember back in the day when you used to have two big stars in rom-coms like Julia Roberts and Richard Gere or Hugh Grant? (Or even further back, Hepburn and Tracy?) Now when it's a vehicle for the female lead, the guy is just some random whose name you can't remember. But Val is a plum comedic part which is another plus about this script. It actually made me LOL quite a bit when most rom-coms are neither rom nor com. (If they even let Dane Cook read this, I WILL lead the boycott.)
This premise is also milked for all its worth. Val forces Diane to hit on a guy at his grandma's funeral (!) and then once she submits to being his partner-in-cruising, their routines are hilarious and I love that they have names like "Fighting First Date", "The Gal Pal"... By the time Val drags her to a roller derby and forces her to skate in the amateur round (so HE can impress the chicks) and she busts out with, "I've never taken a fall for a man and I'm not about to start!" I swear I almost started cheering.
I hate when the leads in romantic comedies are cartoonishly opposite - she's a vegan do-gooder and he's a macho meat-loving corporate raider -- but in Swingles, their tension arises from very realistic, relatable differences. He's an immature poon hound and adult women don't like immature poon hounds. 'Nuff said. But we see Val growing because of Diane's influence and we see her loosen up enough to realize that what she wants "on paper" might not be what she really wants at all.
When the hell is this going into production?
Script link: No link guys. But I'd look to MSP, who might have it.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned: You can write a female lead that is desperate in some ways but not pathetic. I think with a lot of rom-coms she's either too perfect/strong or too whiny/bitchy, just too something, but this script strikes a nice balance for Diane. I'm impressed that a guy wrote this! Also, if you have a great premise look at all the ways you can push it to the limit.