Everyone Has Reversals

Story Lessons, Big and Small (Warning: Spoilers!)

April 25, 2006

There Was a BOMB Under the Table?!!

Like everyone else in the world, I loved Y Tu Mama Tambien. But something's been niggling at me since I saw it: the third act revelation that the older woman, Luisa, is dying.

Why make this a reveal? The character has the information, why can't we? It would have been just as dramatic and much more poignant for us to have known all along, and to watch as she experiments-slash-self-destructs on the trip. We'd have understood her journey as we were in it, instead of after the fact.

Most of the time, you don't get much out of a reveal. It's a big moment, but that's all. It's harder, but putting the information up front and then seeing what the characters do with the information is often going to create a richer experience.

So, to sum up: fewer reveals, more threesomes.

April 23, 2006

Where I'm Calling From

Darkness Falls
is not a good movie.

"Darkness Falls" is not a good title for a movie.

But "Darkness Falls" is a terrible name for the town in which this story's set. Because, really, who would want to live in Darkness Falls?

Vaguely spooky sounding places? Great. Flat-out spooky phrases for place names? Don't do it. That ship sailed with The Simpsons and "Terror Lake".

April 13, 2006

Turn Me Up, Turn Me Down

A lot of us think of the second act turning point in a script as a down moment. A dark moment, a moment of despair. And at that moment, the character figures out if they've got enough in them for a last rush at the prize. The question is often, will they or won't they manage to turn things around?

But the second act turning point can be played lots of ways. In High Fidelity, the second act turn is actually a high moment. John Cusack gets what he's wanted all along: his girlfriend back. It's a great, happy thing.

Except that he hasn't earned it. He didn't do anything to earn her back-- it was her decision. So the questions are: can he become the guy that deserves to have her back, or is he going to screw this up and lose her again? Will he cheat with the cute reporter? Will he stop being selfish and actually make an effort to appreciate her and make her happy?

All great questions for a climax, but it's even more interesting to ask these questions when the couple's actually together. We like both Cusack and his girlfriend. We know exactly what's at stake if he screws this up.

Luckily, he's brave enough at the climax to let Jack Black on stage. He finally sees "What's Goin' On".

Second act turns can be high or low points... as long as the moment poses great questions for the climax.

The movie also has a great title, that works on so many levels. Unlike this post.