Saturday, November 24, 2012

A ScriptShark review of the "Jack: In a Box" screenplay

I think just about any screenwriter who wanted to start writing movies because of watching too many Kevin Smith movies has written a script like this.

I think some might call it "mumble core" or "guys in a diner". I look at this script as Swingers meets Super Bad. It's about a greoup of twenty somethings trying to find their way - only it's quite crude and crass.

Here are some nice things ScriptShark had to say about it back when it was called "Good Times":


Excellent
Good
Fair
Poor

Budget
Idea

X





Story Line

X-



High

Characterization
X




Medium

Dialogue
X




Low
X
Production Value

X







COMMENTS:  Funnily-written, with a strong knack for excellent dialogue, this script possesses a solid sense of comedic timing, an amusing written voice, and an inspired cast of characters.  It speaks with a professional written style, while at the same time remaining contained and simple enough to render it feasibly low-budget.  Its tone is reminiscent of Suburbia or any Clerks-esque Kevin Smith movie, and while, in the spirit of such projects, it feels sometimes somewhat thin on actual plot development, it ultimately succeeds in providing a small, humble comedy with plenty of amusing flair.
                              
Structurally, the script effectively introduces each of its central characters in its first act.  While virtually all of them are in similar life situations, they never come across as too confusingly similar to warrant emotional investment – a definite point in the script’s favor.  As Jack endures fear over his status as a potential HIV victim, and Rey’s confession about his forthcoming reassignment triggers an examination of how things are going to be changing in each of their lives, the story eases into its second act.  While it does not catapult off of a particularly strong catalytic event, it manages to find its way forward from scene to scene at its own leisurely pace.  The second act reaches an emotional head as Jack and Nikki part ways, and Jack almost cheats on her, and Jack’s speech at the wedding reception provides a fittingly dramatic conclusion that also succeeds in rounding out his character arc.
                              
To look for a deeply complex plot in a movie like this would be missing the point.  Clearly, from the first page, intense story development is not to be the central feature of this script, but fortunately, this is not an inherently problematic decision.  Because the script features so many powerful characters with such an excellent sense of comedic dialogue and subtle conflict-driven interactions, it seldom feels as though it is in need of much additional story work.  In certain respects, it could perhaps benefit from a little more depth of exploration in terms of the drama between the various characters, but for the most part, even in its current state, the script proves fairly entertaining and effective.
                              
One thing the script masters almost completely from the first page is its evocative portrayal of post-adolescent ennui.  In the spirit of the Smith or Tarantino movies it so fondly references time and again, the script relies upon the frustration and suburban angst of its characters to drive a story that plays less on incident than the real-life lack thereof.  Indeed, one of the largest antagonistic forces over the course of the story is the frustration of the central characters with the fact that they are facing no particular antagonistic forces; their own resistance to change becomes their greatest enemy.
                              
In the wrong hands, such a strategy could prove problematic, since intangible obstacles such as these can be difficult to portray an interesting fashion.  Again, the script proves that it can handle such potential issues, perpetually peppering into its amusing back-and-forth character interplay just enough morsels of genuine conflict and drama to keep things significant and engaging under the surface of the seemingly vapid discourse.
                              
At the same time, the central characters in the script manage to distinguish themselves from one another to an impressive degree, given the vast number of traits and situational elements that they all share.  Each of them seems to be grappling with not particularly passionate relationships, each with unrewarding jobs and circumstances, and each with a growing sense that life is not turning out nearly as excitingly as they had always assumed it would.  Even while they face the same circumstances, though, they do so with subtly varying perspectives and strategies that manage to differentiate them to a fairly interesting extent.
                              
From the start, Jack is the closest thing the script possesses to a central protagonist, and as such, he takes on the most pivotal role in the development of the story and the respective ancillary relationships between the other characters.  He is the touchstone of the script, and, fortunately, he is also the most dynamic of the primary cast.  Beginning the story as an angst ridden lay-about still trying to find his way around actually caring about anyone, he slowly develops into someone who acknowledges his feelings, his weaknesses, and his power to overcome his deeply entrenched habits to make a change in his life, however difficult or scary it may be.
                              
It is in part because of this strength in his character, and because of the strong voice with which he is infused, that it might behoove the script to give him just a little more agency and depth.  After all, it is Nikki who calls Jack first, and Nikki who again makes arrangements to link up with him later.  Although Jack is the one slowly changing from these interactions, it might be slightly more reflective of his developing arc if he were able to begin taking the initiative in the later iterations of these circumstances.  To a certain degree, the script begins to embrace this impulse.  One of Jack’s strongest moments is his speech, railing against his friends, at the wedding reception in the third act.
                             
 It might be interesting to explore the ways in which Jack leads up to this explosion.  Perhaps he comes close to chewing out his friends a little earlier.  Perhaps he picks a fight with them or with Nikki – some signal that he is beginning to come out of his shell and actually make an effort toward changing his life, even if it is for the worse, at the beginning.  Similarly, one area that might be beneficial to explore for all of the characters is even the smallest glimpse of their various backgrounds and back stories.
                              
While the script is clearly not attempting to create life stories for each of its protagonists, it would be interesting to see them all together as children, even in a brief flashback sequence.  To show where they have come from – the perhaps-bright-eyed optimism they likely had as children – might provide just that much sharper of a contrast between where they came from and where they have now unfortunately found themselves.  If there were conflicts between them even as children – perhaps some of them were formerly enemies with one another – it could lend just a little more depth to their current interactions.  Rey’s departure is one of the more emotional touches to the evolution of the story, and if there were something for which he must be forgiven or for which he must forgive someone else, it could provide one or two scenes of raw pain to take the script to another level of intrigue and artistry.  Any other such violence or event in the past could also supply this deeper level of unexplored conflict between the central characters.
                              
Such additions are not necessarily crucial, though.  Indeed, even in its current state, the script provides a fairly fun and enjoyable examination of early-twentysomething ambivalence and apathy.  It boasts excellent dialogue, amusing characters, and a decent sense of conflict and relationships.  With a little polishing, it could perhaps reach to an even deeper emotional level, but in its current state, it still manages to prove fairly successful.
                             
SCRIPT:  CONSIDER


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