As well as reading scripts, you can learn a lot by watching movies and deconstructing them. I read recently that Sly Stallone used to work in a cinema as an usher and watch some films like MASH over and over again, breaking them down to see what worked. You might be going, “Stallone?” Well he got an Oscar nom for the Rocky script…
But I often find that it’s just as important to watch misfiring films as it is to see successful ones. Why didn’t they work, and what lessons can we learn from ‘em?
Case in point: Fool’s Gold, which was on the telly recently. Most people seem to think that this film misfired mainly because Matthew McConaughey spends the entire time half-naked. I don’t see a thing wrong with this J
No, the problem is actually to do with lack of stakes. Lots of stuff happens in this film – people go here, spout exposition, go there, there’s a diving montage and a bit of comedy with Donald Sutherland’s bimbo rich-girl daughter. But none of it means much, cos there is nothing really at stake! Sure, Matthew might be about to lose Kate Hudson forever. But she’s already divorcing him, (not that this is remotely convincing). Donald Sutherland, who’s possibly the best boss ever, agrees to fund their treasure trip with his millions. No danger there.
Ray Winstone pops up as Matthew’s old boss, but all he does is yell a lot and threaten him a few times. Big whoop! The main baddie is a rapper called Big Bunny D. Apart from the fact that I can’t really get fearful of a rapper, especially one with such a silly name, it’s hard to see why anyone would be afraid of him. We’re TOLD that Big Bunny shot someone and killed all the witnesses, but we don’t see him do anything bad, apart from murdering hiphop lingo and rocking an awful white suit. It would have been much better if he’d been shown knocking off some other treasure-hunter (or one of his own guys who’d double-crossed him) by throwing them into his personal shark tank, something like that. NOW that would be bad!
Overall, the whole film is just too cheerful and lacking in any tension. The result is that it lacks an emotional punch and the plot goes along in a straight line instead of building to a satisfying conclusion.
So the lesson from the Barbados Tourist Board video that is Fool’s Gold: raise the stakes or watch your move sink without trace…