Monday, April 13, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: Primary Colors (1998) - Showing Motive (By Absenting the Antagonist)

[Quick Summary: A young campaign worker helps a charismatic Southern governor run during the Presidential primary.]

In 1998, I didn't see this film in the theater.

Bill Clinton had just begun a second term, and who needed a story with a parallel "Clinton-like" character?

I wish I would've known then that this story is really about MOTIVES.

The writer, Elaine May, did two smart things in this script:

1) She created an ensemble to show the range of motives.

2) She does not put the candidate, Gov. Stanton, in every scene (as Roger Ebert points out here).

Because of #2, the ensemble must talk about their views on Stanton ---> We see what really drives them.
ex. Skeptical Henry is now working on Stanton's campaign.
March is a reporter and his ex-girlfriend.

"MARCH: And that's the kind of man you want to work for? A man who just wants to get elected?

HENRY: No. I want to work for a man who fights the good fight and then watch a Republican get elected. [Sarcasm reveals a new position.]

MARCH: What's the difference? Can you tell?

HENRY: Yes. I can tell the difference between a man who believes what I believe and lies about it to get elected, and a man who just doesn't give a fuck. And I'll take the liar. [He's gone 180.]

MARCH (staring at him): How did he do this to you?

HENRY: Do what? What are you talking about? Why are you making this guy into the devil? Why don't you, at least, get to know him. Take some time, maybe spend a few days with us here. I miss you, honey, and we could be together...

MARCH: God, I think you'd fuck me to get some good press for Stanton.  [She tells him the truth.]

He stares at her for a moment...then turns and walks away."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Deliberately remove the antagonist from time to time.

It will make the other characters talk and reveal themselves.

Primary Colors (1998)
by Elaine May
Based on the novel by Joe Klein

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