Monday, September 5, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Color of Money (1986) - Building a House (Structure) to Show Off the Furniture (Dialogue)

[Quick Summary: Old pool shark decides to mentor a young, unseasoned prodigy.]

I am flattened. Destroyed. Wrecked. Gutted.

Have you ever read something so great that it blew your hair back, and made you reach for the good bourbon, while muttering, "Why do I even try?"

THIS is that script.  [*cough* Oscar nominated script *cough cough*]

Some snot-nosed non-writer might sneer,"This script is mostly dialogue. Is that all writers do? That's easy."

Yes, it is mostly dialogue, and it looks easy.  But do not be deceived.

It is only because the writer* first built a sturdy house (structure) that the furniture (dialogue) could be showcased. 

The Setup: Wily Eddie wants to partner with trusting Vincent, who is unsure.  Eddie gets Carmen, Vincent's girlfriend, involved. Eddie then tells Vincent that Carmen is restless and dissatisfied.

The Payoff:  Note how the seeds of doubt sprout in the scene below.

It is especially clear when Carmen makes fun of Vincent, and he's embarrassed for doubting (see ** below).

ex. "Julian walks over to the bar. Vincent tears open the chips.

VINCENT: You see my girlfriend?
JULIAN: She went out.
VINCENT: Out where?
JULIAN: Hey, she's your girlfriend, man.

Carmen enters the room tapping a fresh pack of cigarettes against the back of her hand.

VINCENT: Everything OK?
CARMEN: (shrugs) Yeah.
VINCENT: Where'd you go?
CARMEN: I went to get cigs.
VINCENT: They see cigarettes here.
CARMEN: So I got 'em across the street, so what.
VINCENT: What, do you mean, you wanted to get some fresh air?
CARMEN: Fresh air? There's ninety thousand cars out there. (beat) What is your problem?
VINCENT: No problem... no problem.
CARMEN: (looking at him screwy) Glad to hear it.
VINCENT: I just didn't know where you went...I was looking for you.**
CARMEN: I'm gonna sit down now, OK?**
CARMEN: I might go to the bathroom in about ten, twenty minutes.
CARMEN: I'll come and tell you when, OK?
VINCENT: Hey...I just didn't know where you went... Let's not make a federal production out of it, OK?

Vincent returns to the empty table, screw the stick together and powers a monstrous break. He studies the spread. Can't concentrate. Puts down the stick and strides over to Eddie.

VINCENT: Let's do it.


casually looking across the room to Eddie.

Eddie catches her glance, nods, looks away."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The better the writer, the more invisible the structure. Here, it's practically gossamer.

The Color of Money (1986)
by Richard Price
Adapted from the novel by Walter Tevis

* For all you sharp-eyed readers, this is the same Richard Price who co-created and co-wrote the recently acclaimed tv mini-series, "The Night Of" (2016), with Steven Zaillian.

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