Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Best Friends

Year 8, Day 166 - 6/14/16 - Movie #2,366

BEFORE: I forgot to mention that "Hooper" didn't come from the Encore Channel's Burt Reynolds marathon, but rather from TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" programming from this February - that big chain where every film shared at least one actor with the film before it and the film after it, and they never used any actor as a link more than once.  (Sorry, still impressed by that - all props to TCM!) And tonight's film came from the same place - unless I miss my guess, this "Hooper" + "Best Friends" combo also ran on Burt Reynold's 80th birthday - so those guys are mad geniuses when it comes to organizing movies.  Plus, they're both films ABOUT filmmaking, stunt-men last night and screenwriters tonight, and Hollywood just LOVES making films about itself.  And yes, both films were nominated for Oscars, "Hooper" for Best Sound and "Best Friends" for Best Original Song, "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" 

THE PLOT:  When a professional couple who have lived & worked together for many years finally decide to marry, their sudden betrothal causes many unexpectedly funny and awkward difficulties.

AFTER: Another coincidence, both "Hooper" and "Best Friends" were semi-autobiographical.  "Best Friends" was written by Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin, who were screenwriters married to each other, at least at the time.  There are probably a lot more films out there like this than we realize, on some level it's a chance for screenwriters to work out their personal issues, and this was way before singers like Taylor Swift and Adele turned their dating histories into smash hit records.  

But on another level, it's also a bit of a cheat.  Writing a story about writers writing stories is the sort of thing that writers do when they don't have any other ideas, and they fool themselves into thinking that their experiences matter to other people.  Or else they just fall back on the easiest thing possible, which is what they've been through, though I'm sure they enhance their own stories until they become the equivalent of relationship "tall tales".  

I also took at stab at turning my first marriage, and its dissolution, into a screenplay.  I managed to convince myself that because her sexual preference changed, that I could write something that might strike a chord with other people, people who had maybe gone through a similar situation and had never seen that depicted in a film.  Or, perhaps people who hadn't seen a proper representation of people who have played role playing games like "Dungeons & Dragons", they haven't really been shown that well on film either.  (That horrible TV movie "Mazes & Monsters" still sticks with me.)

On top of THAT, I've never seen a film that would have a daring idea like mine, to have half of the film animated (the scenes in the fantasy world) - that might make it a tough sell to some people, but it could also make it stand out.  So there it is, my idea - a film about a couple that plays D&D with a group of people, and through this game, the wife learns about her sexual orientation and the couple splits up - but not before some great kick-ass animated sequences with elves and hobbits fighting dragons and such.

I've gotten past the outline stage several times, but I find it incredibly hard to write believable dialogue.  The geek-speak about the gameplay would probably be easy - if I sat in on a D&D game, it would probably all come flooding back.  But the day-to-day stuff, normal human conversations about work, love and the meaning of life, well, that's much more difficult for me.  I may need to work with a professional writer if I'm ever going to get my outline turned into a real script, and make a movie that matches the one in my brain, based on my relationship history.  

(NOTE: Please do NOT steal this idea.  I just got burned by Burger King's invention of the Whopperito, which sounds a lot like the burger/burrito combination I thought of and mentioned on Twitter several months ago, when I was trying to come up with the next cronut.)  

But what a terrible burden it must be, to be a writer.  If two writers get engaged and start planning a wedding, after thinking they might want a tux and a white gown, a minister in a big church and a white stretch limo to take them there, they'd think, "Nah, we've seen that before in, like SO many movies.  What can we do that hasn't been done before, that isn't just some cliché?"  And for Richard and Paula in "Best Friends", that leads them to get married without telling anyone, and take a yellow taxi to a Spanish chapel, where they can barely understand the minister.  

Hey, to each his own, I get it.  The more you can design your own wedding, the more comfortable you'll be, and it's very important to be comfortable on that day in particular, and in your own life in general.  And once Richard and Paula get married, instead of flying off to some beautiful exotic island for a honeymoon, they hop on an Amtrak train and spend three days riding to Buffalo to see her parents, then drive down to Virginia to break the news to his parents.  

That seems to be when the trouble starts for them.  Each set of parents is oddball and annoying in their own way (aren't all parents?), but this also gives each person a glimpse into what their spouse might be like in the future.  Paula's mother is a wonderfully nurturing lady who happens to still be as horny as hell, and her father has recently discovered porno mags and trying to hump the cleaning lady.   

When they go to Virginia, his mother is a photography nut who can't believe they got married without a big party, and his father is an old fuddy-duddy type who wears a goofy hat and expects his wife to cook and serve him all his food - and they end up in a de facto version of the big wedding reception that they were trying to avoid in the first place.  

I feel their pain, having been through two weddings myself, two sets of in-laws over the years, (my first "bachelor party" took place in a bowling alley in Cleveland.  We bowled.) and we all like to think we learn from our mistakes and do things better each time certain situations come around.  But do we?  Richard and Paula were ready to split up the moment things got rocky, without pausing to consider that into every life, some rain must fall (literally, in the end scenes here...) and maybe instead of just going around in relationship circles, it's time for people to do what feels right for themselves, not their families, not society.  If it feels right to get married, please do so - but only if it feels right for YOU and the position you're at in life.  If it feels right to just live together, then please feel free to do that, because maybe that's where you belong.  

I figure if gay people have the right to get married, they (and straight people) should also be keenly aware that they also have the right to NOT get married.  In the end, that might be just as important.

It's an OK film, I just feel it was mostly mining territory that's been seen many times before.   The unorthodox wedding was probably the best part of the movie, but just like the relationship, the movie started to unravel when it fell back upon the "Hey, aren't adult people's parents weird?" tropes. 

Also starring Goldie Hawn (last seen in "Bird on a Wire"), Ron Silver (last seen in "Reversal of Fortune"), Jessica Tandy (last seen in "Nobody's Fool"), Audra Lindley (last seen in "The Heartbreak Kid"), Keenan Wynn (last seen in "The Great Race"), Barnard Hughes (last seen in "The Odd Couple II"), Carol Locatell, Richard Libertini (last seen in "Catch-22"), Valerie Curtin.

RATING: 5 out of 10 Valiums 

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