Review of: Abandonment (V.2) 

reviewed by stevend on 04/05/2011
Credited Review
stevend
Pretty damn good Credited Review
Overall - There is a ton of stuff that I really, really like about this script. It's messy. The world feels very real, things don't happen in any neat and tidy way or resolve themselves miraculously. I finished the story a little bit confused about how everything fit together, but I LIKE that. It feels like the kind of movie you need to see several times before you really GET it. That's my favorite kind of movie. It's understated and quiet most of the time. It doesn't really beat us over the head.

It's clearly designed around a budget, and it's actually a really good script to try to produce yourself, because if you can hire the right actors, you can do a really good job of it. As someone who makes his living in the low-budget film world, the single biggest mistake I see people make over and over is to try to make a ten million dollar movie for fifty thousand dollars. Better to choose something you can do WELL for your budget, and this (some script issues aside) definitely fits the bill.

Right now, I think the script is great. But it's not fantastic. It COULD be fantastic very easily, which is the good news.

Some criticisms:

The genre is a bit problematic. You list is as "Drama, Romance, Horror". I like movies that aren't easily categorized. What many mainstream film critics view as "uneven tonal shifts" are usually the things that make me really like something. In the case of your script, I do like that it's not quite a drama and not quite horror, but I feel like the horror and drama elements are too segregated. Right now, it feels like a drama for 90 pages before turning on a dime and becoming horror. Yes, there are hints early on (with the hallucinations) that something wicked is this way coming. But to me, it's not enough. In the grand context of the story, I saw those hallucinations as being mostly isolated dream elements. I never expected the script to descend into all-out horror. I'm not saying you should turn it into The Exorcist. Just saying that there could be more horror in the drama parts, and probably more drama in the horror parts. The risk, of course, is that it will be too horrific for the people who want to see a drama, and not horrific enough for the people who want to see a horror film. It's a hard edge to ride.

Pacing - I like that it's slow. I really do. And I never felt bored. But it feels like you spend just a hair too much time setting things up. Page 48 is the first time that Richard seems to actually DO something--to move his own story forward. To me, 48 pages is just too long to wait. This is your break into act 2. It needs to be 15-20 pages sooner.

I can't tell you what tipped me off, because I really don't know, but I knew almost from the moment she showed up that Iris was not what she appeared to be. I expected her to be a figment of his imagination (ala Beautiful Mind). I was surprised when Maggie could see her. And I'm still not entirely sure what she turned out to be, but I don't so much mind it. It works.

Honestly, the more I think about this script, the more I like it. All these quibbles are minor. I almost want to go back and read it again.

I do have one criticism that I think is an absolute must, and it has to do with some of your dialog. Most of your scenes and your dialog are beautifully understated. Which makes those occasional moments when they AREN'T really stand out. On a few occasions--and especially when things start to get a little heavy between the characters--the dialog tends much more toward "on the nose". Pg 47. The top of page 56. Especially page 62. A lot of this stuff can be left unsaid. We already KNOW this about Richard. We've SEEN it. There's no need for him to tell it to us, also. Pg. 63 "Iím not used to sharing certain things. Iím afraid." This line is terrible. Good movie dialog, like much of real life, is about subtext. It's about not stating the obvious. This is obvious. Top of page 73. Basically every time there's a really deep interaction between characters, you have them telling each other exactly how they feel.

Also, speaking of on-the-nose, I HATE the title. Hate it. It's so on-the-nose it makes me cringe. Your story is about abandonment. CALLING it "Abandonment" is unfogivable. Find a new title.

The biggest problem area in this script is purely mechanical. The writing is mostly good, but the grammar and the typos, the non-standard formatting, etc. work against it. The story is enough to overcome that, but why handicap yourself? Even if you plan on making this yourself, you are going to have to attract financing and actors and crew etc.

Some specifics:

The continued use of INT when you move from one interior location into another (i.e., from the living room into the bedroom, etc.) is distracting.

I don't know what a "holocaust figure" is, and a quick internet search turned up nothing. If it's important for us to know what this thing looks like, tell us. If not, just describe what we see. But either way, make it clearer that "Holocaust figure" is your own invention (if it is). Otherwise, I feel like I SHOULD know what you are talking about, but don't. For most of the script, I was picturing a skeleton in a cloak--like "Death" from a Monty Python sketch. But by the end, I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant. Make sure you tell a reader all of the information that a viewer would take for granted because they can SEE it.

Pg. 12 "You're cane..." s/b "Your cane..."
Pg. 17 "Your supposed.." s/b "You're supposed..."
20 - "wines" s/b "wine's"
21 - "Go" s/n/b capitalized.
28 - "as the move" s/b "as they move"

Not going to point out any more typos and grammar errors. You are averaging about one a page. Way too many. You especially need to learn the difference between "your" and "you're" and "its" and "it's", and in general, the proper use of the apostrophe.

"A boring sort of handsome." Great phrase!

Pg. 63 "On the ground, in front of her door, is Richard." This makes it sound like he's either collapsed or lied down in the hallway, which I'm pretty sure is not what you mean.

I'm ambivalent about your opening scene. On the one hand, the scene by itself is great. It hits the ground running and is very dynamic. But then we skip ahead some unknown amount of time (without being told that we are skipping ahead), and the actual opening to the script has a much more sedate pace. I think the opening scene sets up false expectations. Why not just start with him getting out of the hospital? We'll see the scar, we'll know what happened. At the very least, you should give us a "SUPER: X months later" or something, because when I first read the script, I had no idea. I thought that they were releasing him the next day, which is obviously not right.

Pg 50 "WE DOLLY AWAY SLOWLY" you've mostly stayed away from this sort of camera direction. Why have it here? What does it add?

You need to tell us how old "Young Richard" is. It makes a difference to the story if he's 4 or if he's 14. Right now, I don't know which it is. It's also not clear how old Richard is when the accident happens. Again, this makes a difference. Is he still a kid? Or did this happen a year ago? Even by the end of the story, I didn't know.

In conclusion, great script. I think this has tremendous potential, and shows some serious story-telling skills. Please try to ignore all the morons who will tell you that it needs to be more "focused" or "structured" or that it's not "Hollywood" enough. This is an indie script, If executed correctly, it could be fantastic.

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