This is my second time reading this screenplay. I went back over my review of the previous version and feel some of the same comments apply to this revision. I won't readdress most of them, because you've clearly made a decision to rewrite the piece that way you have without making some of the changes recommended. However I do want to express again my concern about Sharon's character. She is introduced relatively late in the story. Her relationship with her family has problems that are never adequately explored or resolved in anything other than a superficial way. Her relationship with Shombay also does not feel genuine. It does not seem that she would risk her marriage to go to an unknown and dangerous situation in Liberia in order to get information for Shombay. I don't see the Sharon storyline as being integral to the plot and would suggest cutting it. However, if she is to be included, I think her story needs more depth. When juxtaposed against the other characters, she comes across as noticably thin and superficial in the way she's portrayed.
I was struck again by the quality of the writing of this piece. It's very good. The scenes in Liberia are completely engrossing. But this creates a problem. For me, the Liberian scenes are much more interesting than the scenes in Italy. Liberia is the story I want to see, but it's not the main story that this screenplay is striving to tell. And this is a problem. The only way to resolve it is to somehow make the scenes of Vatican intrigue as powerful as the scenes of violence and heroics in Liberia. The screenplay feels out of balance, with Liberia being much more compelling, but the Vatican being the focus of the story. I think there is some repetition in the Vatican scenes that can still be cut out, so perhaps more can be added to the Liberia storyline, giving the piece a better balance.
My overall impression after reading this screenplay was that it was an interesting, well-written story, but it still wasn't as strong as it should be. I think the above mentioned balance of storylines is part of the problem. I also didn't think Shombay is enough of a heroic figure to carry the plot. For an African to be nominated Pope, he would have to be exceptional. Here is a man who helped bring a sadistic dictator to power. He is a man who is obsessed about the plight of his country and people, instead of looking upon the world as his community. I don't know that this is a man who should be Pope. For this story to work, I think the audience needs to see Shombay as almost a Saint-like figure. Coming from Liberia, he has so much to overcome. There would have to be something enormously compelling to make him a viable candidate for Pope or to get him seriously considered by the conservative cardinals, including Father Bertrand. Throughout the story, I remained unconvinced that Shombay was such a man. There were some nice scenes...the lovely scene in Liberia with the boy with the gun and the nice scene at the restaurant in Italy, but there is too much of uncertain nature in Shombay's past, not matter how he has tried to make up for it in the present.
I also had trouble with the ending...not that Shombay was shot, but by Augustus (I think that was his name) hating him enough to kill him and being a good enough shot to do it. If this is to work, I think we need some background on Agustus, on what motivates him, what his background is, etc. When the murder comes out of the blue like that at the end of the story, it feels like a cheat. With more of a build up, it might work better.
I took some notes as I read which may prove helpful:
1. The extra commentary in the narrative is distracting from the flow of the story. Things like "It's a place the would make even a beggar on the subway count his blessings" and "It's the kind of shock where you can only look" serve to remind us that we're reading a story instead of letting us feel that we're experiencing it. Since your writing, in general, is very effective at involving the reader in the story, comments like this are quite noticable and, in my opinion, should be cut.
2. Is Shombay royalty? If he is, you need to make that clear. If not, perhaps say he carries himself like royalty, or has a regal bearing, so there's no confusion.
3. Are the times listed for the Pope's activities important? If so, they need to be SUPER-ed on the screen. If not, it might be better not to include them in the SP.
4. The scenes of the Pope's day describe moments of talking, but no dialog is written. If it's a montage, make this clear. If not, I think you need to write out the dialog.
5. p. 20 Is Sharon announcing the Pope's death on TV? It's unclear.
6. p. 29 Are there three coffins? I'm confused.
7. The first half of act 2 feels slow. The arrival of all the Cardinals and all the talking bogs things down after the dynamic opening act. Try to think of a way to tell more of the story visually and with more action. (I have no suggestions how to accomplish this...sorry).
8. p. 72 You say "Bertrand" but I think you mean "Francesco" in the narrative.
9. p. 73 Sharon should be capitalized.
So, that's it for notes. I think this story still can be made stronger. There are a lot of important issues addressed, Shombay is a strong character, the Liberian story and the election of an African Pope with new ideas are all interesting. I think the balance of the two stories needs to be worked on. This version seemed to tie the two stories together better. I think that aspect can be addressed even more. Perhaps some specifics on how the church can actually have an effect in Liberia in a practical sense. What, specifically, Shombay wants the church to do. It would help to tie up the story at the end.
I love the way you write. This was, again, an enjoyable read. I wish you the best with it.
Review of: The Fisherman's Ring(V-2)
reviewed by fleezer on 05/09/2006
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