Monday, January 29, 2018

2018 OSCARS: The Big Sick (2017) - "Keeping Lovers Apart" Complication at the End of Act 1

1) EXCELLENT, FAST READ. Did I say FAST? (Comedies = FAST READS, people.)

2) EXCELLENT COMPLICATION AT THE END OF ACT 1. I thought this script stands apart from other rom-coms because of this very important turning point.

What happens at the end of Act 1?
According to rom-com guru Billy Mernit, structuring conflict in a rom-com includes a "Sexy Complication (Turning Point)":
"Traditionally occurring at the end of Act 1, a new development that raises story stakes and clearly defines the protagonist's goal; most successful when it sets man and woman at cross-purposes and/or their inner emotions at odds with the goal." p. 112 (underline mine)
Furthermore, this is the moment
"when the story's central conflict is crystallized in no uncertain terms. A problem is defined that forces the central character to act or react; now we know what the story is about, and we have a pretty good idea (generally better than the characters do) about where we're headed next." p. 112-113.
In this script, the end of Act 1 is different than most rom-coms because it entwines both the cultural and romantic conflicts. 

In the scene below, note how it accomplishes several things at once:

a) It shows the characters' contrasting cultural backgrounds.

b) It shows how the characters' emotions are at odds with the goal:
- Emily's anger at Kumail's shame/fear is in the way of being with him.
- Kumail's fear at what his family thinks is in the way of being with Emily.

b) It crystallizes the conflicts that each must now overcome.


Emily is eating cereal in bed. Kumail in the kitchen making coffee.

KUMAIL (calling out): Hey, I liked our friends. That Craig guy or was it Greg? I can never tell with those names. I'm glad I like him cause I don't want to have to come up with excuses to avoid him, you know. Like, oh no, I have kite surfing tonight.

Emily opens the cigar box and sees the headshots of the women. She flips through them. [The headshots are: 1) an interesting cultural behavior; 2) symbolic of Kumail's romantic indecisiveness.]

KUMAIL (O.S.)(CONT'D): Did you know in the UK it's pronounced "Crayg". Which is good because that's actually how it's written, right? He's a "Crate" guy.

Kumail enters.

KUMAIL (CONT'D)(sees her with the box): I was going to tell you about that. [This is his Achilles' heel. He hides from conflict.]

EMILY: Are you like judging Pakistan's Next Top Model or something? Seriously, who are these women? [She is direct and surprised that he has not been.]

KUMAIL: You know how we have arranged marriage in my culture? These are those women. [A little cultural explanation, a little sidestep.]

EMILY: These are women in Pakistan who want to marry you? [She grapples with the cultural differences.]

KUMAIL: They're not in Pakistan.

EMILY: You've met these women? [She asserts her worth and tries to judge whether he values it too.]

KUMAIL: Just with my parents. We haven't like - [More sidestepping. Both cultural and romantic.]

EMILY: You're not serious about this, are you? [She's getting mad, moving away from the goal.]

KUMAIL: It's my mom's thing, I just go along with it. [Digging deeper hole. Both cultural and romantic. Telling mom "no" is scary in any culture.]

EMILY: So what does your mom think about you and me, then? [She goes for the big elephant in the room.]


EMILY (CONT'D): She doesn't know about me, does she? [She's embarrassed/ mortified that he doesn't think they are worth the fight.]


Emily storms out of the bedroom."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Using both cultural and romantic conflicts to keep the lovers apart is a fresh, interesting spin on the typical rom-com.

The Big Sick (2017)
by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

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