Review of: The Professor 

reviewed by MSeyf on 05/25/2011
Credited Review
MSeyf
Peter problems Credited Review
First off this movie has a very self consciously Ďindieí type vibe, and while this isnít my thing personally it certainly has the style and tone likely to appeal to itís target demo so thatís good. Itís a script about moods and moments in time rather than the thrust of an overt goal-driven narrative and thatís no bad thing in itself, albeit again not quite my cup of tea.

One problem that I think isnít an issue of personal preference is the general lack of conflict. Which is strange because given the UK/USA dynamic and the age gap. I feel there were plenty of missed opportunities to have conflict fuelling the drama/romance.

Peter starts the story just sort of mildly out of sorts rather than at his lowest possible ebb. He came across as pathetic and unsympathetic and as a guy I couldnít really relate to his self pitying nature. I found myself wondering what Poppy (who seemed far too cool by comparison) even saw the bumbling old mess. I didnít really get a sense that he deserved to become the subject of Poppyís affections quiet as suddenly and as easily as he did. And whatís more he didnít really address his general lameness once he was with her. Their relationship seemed to flourish despite his faults and flaws.

There wasnít really a sense of conflict or tension, either present or pending. It was all a bit too breezy - till the ex wife showed up. I donít think the time skips help this. As they come rather abruptly and take us out of the intimacy it takes to make this kind of story flow and work. The couple kinda flourish in a bubble, and i think that something of a missed opportunity for comedy and drama. Taking each member of the couple out of their element, for example; Poppy takes Peter to rock gig or a burlesque strip show? While Peter takes Poppy to a book club full of boring married folks that makes her stomach turn or he takes her to a British pub to watch soccer games which she struggles to follow or understand? There were loads of potential bumps on the road like this that could have help layer the contrasts between the two of them and fleshed them both out as contrasting conflicting personalities.

Those are just some general ideas of what I mean by conflict and tension. Not necessarily have the two of them flying into arguments and wrestling on the floor as itís far too subtle a type of story to require that kinda stuff. But rather subtle hints and clues of troubles to come, or cracks in the blissfully surface of their relationship. There are obvious places to start, generational and cultural conflicts.

As it stands the return of the wife is a massive curveball. Itís abrupt. And it makes the already unsympathetic Peter even more obnoxious, (atleast in my eyes). Having scored Poppyís heart without really deserving to he proceeds to drive a knife through it because he doesnít have the balls to stand up to his domineering wife? Heís a hard guy to root for. But then again her love for him kinda undermines her, sheís too smart and too cool to be into this guy i kept telling myself.

And I didnít get the sense that I was supposed to feel this way about him. Perhaps a key might be to really amp up his alcoholism and initial despair (Leaving Las Vegas Ėstyle). So that heís a guy about to go off the edge of a cliff rather than what he is presently, which is kinda a self pitying loser/man child that scores a hottie he doesnít deserve then breaks her heart for no good reason. Iíd suggest a more meaty and compelling hook that draws her to him. More than that heís just kinda 'broken' and needs nursemaid to fit him.

At the end of it Peter was just too pathetic and too needy. I wanted to slap the guy. All he seems to do to Poppy is feed her insecurity. He constantly tells her sheís talented and that seems to be enough for her to forgive him his countless and significant flaws and to pine after him once heís gone? In the end sheís a success as an artist REGARDLESS of her involvement with Peter. I needed more of a connection between her Ďheartbreakí and her Ďartí/success. If being with Peter inspired and fuelled her work somehow? In the end she doesnít need Peter in order to succeed, he starts the story with the same Ďtalentí she ends it with. All Peter does is tell her heís talented over and over.

I think you kinda need to go back through break down exactly what each characterís INNER NEED is and then work out how the relationship between them, both holds them back from and/or pushes them towards those different inner needs that define them. Easier said than done of course.

Also there are too many songs in it! Iím not gonna to do what alot of reviews will do and just bash you for using songs in your screenplay that need to be rights cleared. But in this case you literally have almost every other scene punctuated by some track or another. This problem is compounded by the fact that in several instance you are relying on the actual specific song lyrics to do the dramatic heavy lifting, to literally communicate the meaning or inner emotional turmoil of a given character. Thatís problematic for a number of reasons, not least because any producer might struggle to secure a specific song and if a substitute song would undermine or change the meaning or impact of a scene totally, then you got a problem there.

Ultimately my main issue was that the characters ended up unsympathetic. Like I said Peter has few redeeming qualities, and Poppy loses credibility for falling for him like she does. Then Peterís wife is an out and out bitch who Peter just doesnít have the balls to stand up to. Peterís second act Ďsearch for Poppyí doesnít quiet work, mostly itís because heís decided he wants to be with her already. There is no love rival, no alternative guy or anything, heís arced too soon decided he loves her and wants her and just needs to go find her. Itís a treasure hunt where it should be an emotional pay off, laced with uncertainty and will she won't she. We know she loves him, we know he loves her, it's a tension/drama killer in the final furlong.

I wish I had more to offer. Ultimately is a really hard type of story to pull off. Props for getting the job done and good luck on the re- writes.

Breakdown:

First 10- Good tone. Sense that this script kinda knows what it is. Some of the action passages could do with being trimmed down.

P15 UK addresses donít tend to have such large numbers. If itís a sub section of a larger building itíll more likely be something like Flat 4, Pinegree Lane. London. NW 1. For example.

P18 At this point I m thinking Peterís really quiet pathetic. Itís getting hard to stay sympathetic towards him.

P28 The cultural differences between Peter and Poppy feel all too superficial. Try to use conversations about things like that to convey other deeper things in the subtext.

P28 this feels very abrupt. We donít really have enough reason to like Peter. Up to this point heís been pathetic, so the sex scene feels kinda like a pathetic man taking advantage of an insecure vulnerable girl.

P30-cultural differences stuff needs to be expanded. Itís a great source of conflict thatís squandered in the present draft. It seems reduces to quirks of manner and attitude rather than being a fundamental source of contrast or conflict between the couple.

P60 Ė revelations come too thick and fast here.

P64 Ė the characters (esp Poppy) have a snarky way of talking about themselves that doesnít quiet work for me atleast.

P66 Ė I donít really like this kinda political point scoring. It feels out of place and itís kinda a cheap gag that risks making half your audience laugh and the other half grimace.

P69- again with the purple prose from Poppy. The character has this habit of narrating her own situation/s and thought Ė i think you a treading a tight rope. Some times this kinda stuff can appear quirky post modern and ironic, a la Juno...but at other times and especially for an amateur writer, readers might assume this to be just plain old bad writing.

P82 Ė again there was no signposting of the threat to Peterís job. Poppy occasionally threatened to grass him, but no outside source of conflict or sense that such a problem might arise prior to this.

P88- waay too late in the day to throw all these new characters into the mix imo.

P103- Angelaís lump of bald expo doesnít work here. Itís feels like soliloquy we could do without.

P107- I have a hard time imagining Peter throwing a punch Ė lol.

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