Monday, November 18, 2013

(Rookie) Screenplay Review: All The Good Ones

"I don’t know a life without you."

Premise: The story of a small town, high school dropout's decade-long relationship with her drug addict boyfriend. Despite their struggles, neither one can leave the other.

Written by: Jentri Chancey

Technical: 111 pages. Undated draft.

"All The Good Ones" script link here

Austin, Texas

The script starts in 2004, in Gallup, New Mexico. We meet Story Leonard, 27. Immediately there are some great images: "The skyline fades and blossoms an array of colors over stacked mountains behind a modest, tasteful community." "Story stands in front of a mirror and stares at her reflection. She splashes water on her face and pats it dry with a hand towel. She observes the fine wrinkles on her forehead, lifts the skin above her eyes, smooths over her cheeks with her hands, gives a wide smile as she runs her tongue over her teeth." The imagery is sharp and concise. It's extremely articulate.

Now there's a flashback to the Leonard House, circa 1993. Story is 17, and her mother and father are splitting up. Furthermore, Story is not very popular in school, and she's not passing her classes. Michelle, Story's best friend, sets Story up with Billy (he's doing drugs on a toilet, when we first meet him). Story and Billy get along well, and start dating. At one point Story's ex-boyfriend (Will) calls her, but she wants nothing to do with him. (Early in the script, as well as later, there are some funny scenes of Story's cool mom, working at a retirement nursing home.)

In one scene Billy and a friend are smoking marijuana, drinking cheap beer, eating shrooms, and popping back codeine (Billy tells his buddy that he stole the codeine from Story's mom's medical cabinet.) Billy says to not tell Story what they are doing. And then the boys are on the front lawn, tripping out hard. We see what they see: a moonflower blossoming before their eyes, Billy's jeans melting into the ground, and other whacked-out images. There are also more of these scenes later in the screenplay, where we see things from Ryan's drugged-out perspective. These all need to be removed, and instead, the writer needs to just show things from an outsider's perspective. Showing these images is pointless, cliche, and uninteresting.

Story flunks out of high school, and gets a job at Walmart. One night she confronts Billy, saying that she knows what him and his friend were doing, and she's not happy. Then, the next day, her ex (Will) stops by her house. Story reluctantly agrees to see Will (because she is mad at Billy) and they end up spending the night together. The next morning Billy brings his parents by, unaware of Will's visit. Billy promises Story he will be better to her.

Three years later, we're in Austin, Texas. Billy (in college) and Story get their own place, and we find out that they're engaged. The script details their time in Austin; mostly Billy's drug addiction getting out of control, and Story's struggle to break free from the man she loves. The story has a lot of detail, and the dynamics between the many characters are intricate, and believable.

A lot happens in the "All The Good Ones", but especially for a script with so much detail... but nothing ever really happens.  Yes, we see the deterioration of Billy and Story's complex relationship. And the story surrounding this is woven with many intriguing threads; characters; relationships, secrets. But there is nothing special, or compelling, about Story and Billy's love for each other. (Which, I don't even believe they love each other. Billy is trying to love himself through Story. And Story-she doesn't love herself, as she puts Billy before herself and allows him to hold her back. So if she doesn't love herself, she couldn't love Billy!)

"All The Good Ones" is about an extremely average couple's problems, and the dull, unromantic reality of them. Story and Billy are poison to each other,and would be better apart than together. But as their partnership implies, they only live with what feels easy, safe, and comfortable. Everything in the script is genuine. But these two lovers, and their friends and family... are just plain, ordinary people.

Like the characters, the script is wandering and aimless. The piece could be shortened significantly by cutting out small, unnecessary things. But this needs more than just shortening. Even though I read the script with laser-like focus... it really was boring. And usually, I like boring. So if I think it's boring... it must be pretty uninteresting.

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