Review of: A Constant Variable 

reviewed by MSeyf on 01/21/2010
MSeyf
My kinda story
Constant Variable.
First things first. You are a supremely talented writer light years ahead of most of the chasing pack and I have no doubt youíll be making a living off your talents sooner rather than later (if you arenít already). I loved many things about the script but in the interests of always looking to help make things tighter Iíll focus on the issues and tweaks and suggest improvements. I might throw in suggestions for a scene here or there so please donít be offended. Remember I really like this script 
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
Many original ideas, a quirky style strong characters solid structure. Funny, and generally near market ready formatting. Good lean style. Good blend of genres.
CONCEPT
Iím a big time travel fan (yet to manage a draft script of my own in the genre however ). Despite having seen more than most people when it comes to time travel movies, you managed to come at it from an angle Iíd not seen before. The intellectual dimension to time travel for me recalled a Beautiful Mind more than anything else. Using EMOTIONS as the DEVICE which activates time travel is a master stroke. A stunning idea that links well to your other themes and as far as I can tell is fairly original (time travellerís wife not withstanding).
STORY
You do a good job of keeping complex events clear and understandable. My problem however is with motivations. I think the script is stuck between a few different places, I think you need to commit to the dark obsessive lost child stuff or go with the light fluffy hijinks of time travel, they sit a little uneasily together at the mo.
CHARACTER
Brilliant characters that I can visualise as I read. Lots of revelations coming by way of action and conflict and minimal instances of telling. All good. Motivations are a little muddled however. For me the unseen death of the daughter is actually the inciting incident in that itís motivated Jacobís obsession with time travel equations, this need to be brought into sharper focus (itís back grounded at present).
STRUCTURE
Solid. And in this genre thatís a MASSIVE achievement in itself! Cause you are dealing with paradoxes and issues that can get well out of hand well fast. You keep a lid on the right things, your story hits the right beats and is well put together. Any suggestions I have detailed below fit directly into your existing structure so I guess that means it working as far as I can tell (but what do I know right? hehe).
DIALOGUE
Love alot of it. The tone is light, but some of the events and subjects arenít as much thatís still cool. A few passages have too much expo but nothing majorly at fault.
OVERALL
I do have a few issues and suggestion. Mainly I feel there are a few missed links that I feel could make things a whole lot stronger. Bear in mind as you read this that everything as it stands WORKS and works well. Iím playing devilís advocate cause I think there is EVEN more in the concept. Now, Jacob is motivated ultimately we learn on page 30, not by a desire to escape suburbia (though thatís part of it). Heís motivated by the prospect of stopping or changing some unseen event thatís claimed his daughter. I would like to see you connect this more directly to the sexual themes (which you played well mostly for laughs) down the line. Iíd use the first romantic fumble between the couple to illustrate a dark side to the coupleís loss of passion (namely that Jacob is worried about having and then losing another child). Maybe he doesnít want her sexually at all, maybe he wants a condom, maybe fear in his eyes hints that heís scared of sex with her. I think you can play up the disconnection and foreshadow the tragic reason behind it better. So Jacobís Ďproblemí is that his daughter died, and this has made him obsessed with time travel, and Ďafraidí of sex with his wife, you can connect these two directly imo.
That way the sexual theme becomes about more than a couples disconnection and it ties into what is the central motivation of the protagonist in a more direct way. Also a trigger for Jacobís madness could be the realisation that he canít get back into the past at all and so canít save the first daughter (this could be told to him during the convo that causes him to crack- when he meets his sexually re invigorated future self and turns gun nut.) Basically the Ďfuture Jacobí gets over the first daughter by realising that itís better to look forward than backwards and as such decides to do his damnest to get his wife knocked up again. The Ďmad Jacobí clings to the past and wants to kill the other Jacob for Ďgetting over ití?
In other words I think the dead/absent daughter needs to be more central as a motivation. Itís the reason heís focused on the equation to begin with, the fact that the equation wonít bring her back and his future self is just happy to get laid should be the revelation that pushes Mad Jacob to get gun happy. His future self having reasoned ĎI canít bring the child I lost back but that no reason not to try for another dammit, the future isnít written yet, even if the tragic past isí. So Jacob learning that Ďyou canít change the pastí is a key revelation. It makes him focus on the future and it make the mad Jacob twisted and over the edge. For my money this plot point needs to arrive at end of act 2 break which sets up the finale, wherein future Jacob learns that his other self has gone gun loko?
Sorry if all my suggestions are hard to follow it kinda complicated to explain all this. So again big probs for the writing.
Minor plot point, (which I totally forgave you for by the way) was why would a couple of young free loving types Like Olive and Darren, keep a gun hidden in a book? I thought only spies and assassins cut spaces out of books for guns? Still itís a neat visual and youíd earned my suspension by that point anyhow. You could fix it by making it Jacob and Oliveís fatherís gun or something? Maybe itís wall mounted but functional? Just a thought.
Iíve included my page by page observations below. Sorry if they cover some of the same ground.
Brilliant first 10. Youíve introduced complex physics questions and characters, you do a great job of showing the values of the character through action. So far so good. Only thing I would add would be a photo of the daughter somewhere. Just so we wait for her entrance/ wonder where she is/ why sheís not mentioned FORESHADOWING what weíll find out soon enough.
P10 love this entire order convo. Reminds me of every girl Iíve ever dated. So far so good blend of humour and drama spot on.
P13 slightly unnecessary exposition from Sarah here at the top of the page about her job. Iíd rewrite/work this scene to foreshadow a sex life that is totally completely cold due to tragedy, not just frosty in a funny relatable way like it feels at the mo. Iíd hint at a connection between Jacobís lack of sex life and his fear of another child that might then be lost. I think this page is where you need to switch a few hooks around to give what follows added impact.
P18 Maybe the hardcore sex stuff is a bit much? I donít know it crosses a line that you donít cross anywhere else so feel a little outta wack?
By p25 Iím starting not to like Sarah. If this is your intention itís being done in nice subtle way. I think the trouble again is that Sarah and Jacob are disconnect sure, but that it feels like this is due to the type of person she is. When in reality they are very in love and issues stem from a shared trauma that they arenít yet over as a couple Ė You hint at this with the dog, but you could go further for my money. Make it crystal clear that Sarah puts the Sweetie before Jacob and treats Sweetie EXACTLY like a child- Jacob wants to kill Sweetie cause Ďshe isnít his child dammit!í this is comedy gold. Iíd advise looking at As good as it gets for ideas on how to play this up.
P30. I like this bombshell of the absent daughter. Like I said before foreshadowing her existence will IMO give the revelation of her death added impact, as weíll be waiting for her to appear. At the moment it feel like Jacob is simply boarded by suburban normality and as such obsessed with time travel? For me it wasnít working as motivation till this daughter reveal. Iíd suggest two other places to foreshadow the absent girl. And Iíd suggest using both (just my 2 cents). Foreshadow the absent daughter in three places Ė 1) when Jacob meets Tayah and they talk napkins Jacob could say ĎSarah got obsessed with germs when we brought the little girl home etcí. 2) When they donít have sex, Jacob puts his hand on her stomach and she says Ďif we have another weíll have anotherí Weíll wonder but we wonít know. 3) Sweetie Ė play Jacobís hate and Sarahís displacement for laughs but ramp up the Ďsweetie is my babyí angle.
P30 brilliant action lines! I can see the camera shot involving the lying on the floor crystal clear and it rocks! And Iíd suggest recalling it again later when heís shooting himself etc.
P41 Iíd suggest ĎJacob limpsí down the side walk. Rather than Ďwalks limpingí consider that nitpicked.
P44 The MOON script does a great job of managing doubles in screen play format. Worth a look for this bit but you do just fine as is.
P50 Iím having trouble accepting time travel without a device of some kind to account for it from a narrative stand point. Having said that this most likely a result of you being ahead of my imagination with your superb concept (so maybe itís a point best ignored).
P59 Itís getting hilarious now. A real groundhog day vibe to Jacob being surrounded by people getting it on. Having said that it sits a little uneasy against the back drop of a dead child maybe as they arenít presently connected? I think making him someone who CANíT have sex anymore, rather than someone just kinda Ďoff ití would give all his motivations stronger drive and focus?
P70 I hear from the powers that be that underlines in the dialogue is a big no no apparently. Okay in action but in lines itís you telling the actors how to perform apparently so those clever dudes say.
P86 I love the way you have narrativised the concept of psychics having a snap back self writing mechanism. Never seen that done as you have. Really great core idea here!
Loved the end, recalled the Timetravellerís wife with more humour and no schmaltz. Good good good.
All in all itís strong and with minor tweaks I think you could end up with a sale here. Limited locations will keep cost down, itís very do-able. Look forward to reading more of your stuff. Hope this helps.
NOTE: This review does not factor into the site rankings.

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