Monday, September 28, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: Intolerable Cruelty (2003) - Making A Talking Head Scene Interesting

[Quick Summary: Expert divorce attorney falls for an alluring serial divorcee.]

I scratched my head a little on this script.

The bad news is that I have no idea why it's not a screwball comedy (because it could've been).

The good news is:
- It reads incredibly fast.
- I was never bored.
- Even the "talking head" scenes between two characters are funny and interesting.

What's one secret to interesting talking head scenes?

Answer: Something else is happening simultaneously (which affects the conversation).

In the scene below, the lawyers (Miles, Ruth) are negotiating terms of a divorce.

At the same time, the clients (Marylin, Rex) are connecting.  Is this a possible reconciliation? If so, it would affect the lawyers' negotiations.

ex. "MILES: Why only fifty percent, Ruth? Why not ask for a hundred percent?

RUTH: Oh brother. Here we go.

MILES: Why not a hundred and fifty percent?

RUTH: Yes. Maybe you're right, Miles. Maybe we're being too conservative. Seventy-five percent.

Rex winces. Rubs his stomach. Marylin leans forward and whispers to him.

MARYLIN: Do you need a Tagamet?

REX: You have some?

She removes a pack of the tablets from her purse, along with several vials of prescription drugs.

MARYLIN: These are yours....

She hands the pills to a grateful Rex. Their hands touch for a moment.

MARYLIN: Have you been taking your digestive enzymes?

REX (contrite): Sometimes I forget.

She looks at him like a concerned parent. Miles and Ruth watch the interaction.

MARYLIN (to the attorneys): I'm sorry. Where were we?"

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Talking head scenes are more interesting if something else is simultaneously going on that may/may not affect the talking heads.

Intolerable Cruelty (2003)(1st draft, 3/25/97)
Based on story by Robert Ramsey & Matthew Stone, John Romano
Screenplay by Robert Ramsey & Matthew Stone, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

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