September 05, 2006
Screenplay Impressions

Jumping the guardrails here at “Page to Screen” this week, I thought I'd take a moment to offer reactions to a few screenplays I've been able to leaf through over the last year. I'm not usually keen on “reviewing” screenplays, but regardless I thought this could be a beneficial entry as I get my things in order and dive back into the actual PURPOSE of this column. Also Claes has designed a new layout for the column, which I’m loving. I hope you do as well.

Anyway, we’ll try to turn the corner next week here at “Page to Screen” and get back on track, but in the meantime, here is a look at four screenplays which look to dot the 2006 awards landscape:

Written by Bill Condon

The script for “Dreamgirls” is as alive and brisk as Condon's adaptation of “Chicago” in 2002. Featuring four as of then unwritten original songs as well as plenty of the original musical’s numbers to fill the margins, “Dreamgirls” really does leap off the page and announce prime awards opportunities for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson (as if we were not aware of that already). The story zips along and is a real page-turner, while the epic nature of the tale (captured beautifully in the as of yet unreleased trailer) is evident throughout. All the cards are really lining up in this film’s favor this year.

“The Fountain”
Written by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel

“The Fountain” can say one thing for itself. It is short. At just over 90 pages, Aronofsky and Handel’s screenplay at least gets where it’s going in a hurry. What lies between the pages, however, is a head-spinning affair that seems to beg representation on the screen before any real opinion can be drawn of the material. At every step, the fantastical story seems ripped from Aronofsky’s mind as a template for his work as a director, and so any review or interpretation of the screenplay is difficult to justify. My personal reaction was simply a desire to see the end result. Screening reactions have been positive, so perhaps what Aronofsky molded from the clay of his script was a worthwhile endeavor after all.

“The Good Shepherd”
Written by Eric Roth

Usually Eric Roth’s work has a lived-in quality to it that is penetrating and seasoned. His collaboration with Tony Kushner, though dreadful in the realm of narrative flow, was nevertheless cognizant of character interaction and subtext. Roth’s finest hour was his work on Michael Mann’s “The Insider,” a film as internalized as it is a showcase for visual storytelling. Well, none of this is apparent in “The Good Shepherd,” a script that lies there on the page awaiting excitement or interest to be pumped into its veins. Though told via an intriguing structure that serves a thematic purpose, the 120 plus pages are a chore to read through with, ultimately, a flaccid protagonist to lead us through the otherwise unexceptional events of the tale. Early screening reactions seem to offer the same perspective, so perhaps director Robert De Niro did not do much to elevate the material in the end.

“Lonely Hearts”
Written by Todd Robinson

I really, REALLY enjoyed Todd Robinson’s work on this script. The tale is not told in any outstanding manner, but it is told with a confidence that is appreciated. Robinson is after all telling the story of his grandfather, Elmer Robinson’s, investigation of the Lonely Hearts murders of the 1950s. There was plenty of positive festival reaction for the film earlier in the year, but as of yet the film still has no domestic distribution, and as a result will likely not make a play in the 2006 awards race. Regardless, what lies on the page is a riveting story of two homicidal maniacs (Salma Hayek has a great opportunity in her role as Martha Beck) and the two detectives on their trail. I personally am looking forward to James Gandolfini’s representation of Charles Hildebrandt, Robinson’s partner in whose voice the story is told.


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