Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: #15 WGA Script of All Time - The Apartment (1960)

[Quick Summary: A doormat of an insurance salesman allows his superiors to use his apartment as a by-the-hour love nest. But when he finally meets a special girl, he stands up for himself.]

I thought this was a sad but heartfelt comedy.

The one scene that broke my heart was so well written with subtext & symbols.

Here's the setup: Bud like Fran. Fran likes the married boss, Mr. Sheldrake. Mr. Sheldrake is using Bud's apartment to woo Fran (Bud doesn't know it).

Bud finds a woman's compact w/ a broken mirror in his apartment. He returns it to Sheldrake.

Here's the scene: At the firm's Christmas party, Fran has just found out she's just one of Sheldrake's string of women. But she can't tell anyone.

Bud ushers her into his office. He's in high spirits, since he's been promoted.

He tries to impress Fran & tells her that he's close to Sheldrake. He shows her a Christmas card from the entire Sheldrake family. She reacts less than enthused.

He offers to put in a good word for her. She hesitates.

He changes the subject to his new hat & asks her opinion. She hands him her compact...with the broken mirror.

There are two things happening:

1 - Bud KNOWS she's the girl Sheldrake's been cheating with. At BUD'S apartment. What a double gut punch.

2 - Fran thinks no one knows her own misery. But Bud suddenly does.

There's little need for dialogue because the symbols carry the subtext.

ex. Bud sees the mirror & he knows Fran knows Sheldrake. All his hot air about being cozy with Sheldrake is now a joke.

ex. Fran sees the Sheldrake family Christmas card & it pours buckets of salt in her wound. He'll never leave his family for her.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The economy of this double turning point was genius. All show, no tell.

The Apartment (1960)
by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond

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