a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Unlikely-Friends Movie

So as part of trying to put together an assignment pitch with a co-writer, we're watching -- and reading -- a lot of films/scripts that fall into the unlikely friends genre.

Not exactly buddy comedies. More like two people of different worlds being thrown together, with some humor, but with a dramatic understory.


I read the script for the upcoming GRAN TORINO, and it's okay: good dialogue, story slow to kick in, not really sure about the ending. It's coming out Friday in limited release, and though the National Board of Review gave it best script, I think reviews may be a little mixed.

I also read the script for THE SOLOIST, by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) and it's better; it's coming out early next year sometime, with Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx.

It's becoming clear that for these stories to work, it's all about the characters, and the dialogue; the writers of GRAN TORINO and THE SOLOIST really do bring a distinct voice to the piece. But story is important too; even though neither film has a huge amount of plot to work with, both do a good job (though THE SOLOIST does it better) of using little dramatic moments and needs to keep goosing the story along.

Any more examples of this kind of film that anyone can think of, throw them out there. We're trying to immerse ourselves in the question of what films in this genre do right, and do wrong.


Clearly I overestimated PUNISHER: WAR ZONE, which stumbled in with a meager $4 million this past weekend. Though I had seen at least one good review somewhere, I hadn't seen the commercial for it until after I made my guess -- and then I realized how cheesy it looked, without having any real name actors to compensate.

CADILLAC RECORDS did about $3.6 million, on about a quarter of the screens that PUNISHER had. NOBEL SON completely tanked, with only $371,000 from 893 theaters, about 200 more screens than CADILLAC RECORDS had.


At 9:33 AM, Blogger Christina said...

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - goofy on the surface but it had some real depth and pathos.

Red (Rouge) by Kieslowski - one of my favorite films of all time, about an unlikely friendship that develops between an unloved model and a retired judge who eavesdrops on people. It's a masterpiece.

Lost in Translation - fits your criteria, I think. Two misunderstood people trapped together in a Hyatt in Tokyo.

The Professional - ?

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Joshua James said...

Harold and Maude, of course ... tho they were lovers.

Melvin and Howard ...

Slingblade ...

Birdy ...

am I getting warmer?

At 2:43 PM, Blogger ALLEN said...

i read gran torino too...very underwhelmed. i'd describe it as mediocre at best. Even the "good" parts feel tired.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

My favorite unlikely friends movies are "48 Hours" Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte, and "Leathal Weapon" Mell Gibson/Danny Glover. BUT they're more action than drama.

Suprising the box office was so weak. Even with these shows looking quite underwheming, you'd still think people with the weather getting worse people would be inclined to pluck down a couple bucks at the local multiplex after getting in their Chrismass shopping.

Keep rockin', Scott! Hope you and your parnter discover a good story.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Cinema Cynic said...

Darjeeling Limited. Although they're brothers, they're definitely from different worlds.

There are plenty of comedies that might be useful such as Lethal Weapon, Men in Black, etc.

At 6:32 PM, Blogger Laura Reyna said...

Stories w/ adults & kids:

Central Station, Man on Fire,Karate Kid

Rain Man?

I think Beaches qualifies, tho haven't seen it in yrs.

At 7:02 PM, Blogger DougJ said...

The Visitor (haven't seen it yet but it fit the bill from what I have read about it).

Man on the Train (French)

The Matador (veers close to buddy movie territory but not too close)

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Brett said...

Most of Wes Anderson's movies seem to qualify.

Night Shift. Midnight Run. Midnight Cowboy. The Defiant Ones. Enemy Mine. Hell in the Pacific. Papillon. All The President's Men. The Breakfast Club. Silence of the Lambs.

I think what makes these work (when they work) is well drawn characters with clear and significant differences who are pushed into situations where they must share a common goal or obstacle, and while struggling (both against the obstacle and their doppelganger partner) they realize that they share some core commonality which binds them when it matters most.

So all you have to do is develop two independently fascinating characters who seem totally opposite... except for one key core element which becomes critical to overcoming the story challenge, and which so happens is a core value in their doppelganger partner.

It seems easiest to start with a pair of polar opposites and then chart it so that the key personality elements fit like a jigsaw puzzle, and then figure out what those totally opposite traits would then allow to be common to both, and find a way for THAT element or trait to be critical to besting the challenge.

Or maybe throwing darts works, too.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Since the writing partner and I are writing an unlikely-friends script as well --

Finding Nemo. The Shrek movies, especially the first. Emperor's New Groove.

Yeah, that's right, I went all animation on you.

Also About A Boy, Rushmore (someone already mentioned Wes Anderson movies in general), pretty much any romantic comedy qualifies...

At 2:17 AM, Blogger wcmartell said...

GRAN TORINO fits - while watching, it was hard to imagine the film working without Eastwood (or some other older star with that much charisma).

- Bill

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Steve Axelrod said...

How about The African Queen? Or The Defiant Ones, where Tony Curtis and Sydney Poitier play escaped convicts from a chain gang?


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