Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The First 15 Minutes Project #12: Richard Boyle

Richard Boyle in Salvador

  1. Rapid-fire montage of newsreel-style footage of a massacre in El Salvador. Thriller music plays.
  2. A news report tells us about what’s going on in El Salvador.
  3. Boyle is woken up by three things: this news report, this baby crying, and the landlord knocking on the door. His baby’s mother cries and says she can’t live like this anymore.
  4. Later, using the payphone in the hall while others wait for the phone, Boyle begs various news agencies for a press pass to go drum up some news in El Salvador before it blows up. He brags about the various heroic newsgathering jobs he’s done in the past: the last American journalist out of Cambodia, etc. A friend is heading for the airport but agrees to loan him $500 if he can get there in time.
  5. Boyle speeds across San Francisco, gets pulled over. He has not license or registration and several tickets have gone to warrant. He’s arrested.
  6. In jail, Boyle is bailed out by his DJ friend Doctor Rock, who spends a lot to get Boyle and his car released, on the condition that Boyle take him to get his dog out of a pound.
  7. Boyle and Dr. Rock drive across town. They complain about yuppied women. Boyle prefers Latin women, who are kind and understanding. It turns out that they’ve both been kicked out and planned on crashing with the other. They complain about the yuppie cars on the road.
  8. They show up at the pound. They explain that they put Dr. Rock’s dog to sleep. “That was my only relationship! My best friend! Seven years! My marriage only lasted five!”
  9. They go to Boyle’s place. His wife has gone back to Italy to her parents, leaving only the TV and a dirty diaper in the crib. “It was a marriage made in hell. I sure am gonna miss my boy. (shrugs) Maybe she’ll be back.” Dr. Rock jokes: “Sure. Who could leave all this?”
  10. Back on the highway, Boyle suggests that they roadtrip down to Guatemala. “Why?” “Why not? No cops. No laws. Sun. It’s cheap. No yuppies. Great dope.” They toss an empty beer can on the highway.
  11. As they drive through Mexico: “Look at you. You’re a walking museum of the ‘60s.” “What the fuck are you?” “I am a forward thinking human being! I know about life because I explore things. Being a journalist, you’re in touch with reality.” “You come off with this journalist bullshit all the time. I haven’t seen one goddamn thing that you’ve written.” “I wrote a book” “That was ten years ago!”
  12. They enter El Salvador. “You said Guatemala! You never said anything about El Salvador! They kill people here, Boyle!” “You believe everything you read in the papers? You’ll love it! C’mon doc, this is my last chance, man. I’m serious, if I get some good combat shots for AP I can make some money. Pay you back!” “You’d better pay me back!” (Boyle is smoking a joint as he drive, Dr. Rock is washing down pills with alcohol.) “We could go to Los Libertas, best surfing beach in the world. You can drive drunk! Get anyone killed for 50 bucks!” “I don’t want to get anybody killed” “Where else can you get a virgin to sit on your face for seven bucks??” That finally convinces Dr. Rock to stay.
  13. They come across soldiers who have just killed some people. “Who are these clowns” “Traffic accident.” Then Rock sees a burning corpse on the side of the road. “Shit, Boyle!” The death squad realizes that Boyle is a journalist and takes them both into custody. They watch the soldiers kill somebody on the side of the road. Boyle insists that he’s friends with their boss and asks to be taken to him…

This is a classic example of triangulation: no matter how extreme a character is, you can always make him look moderate by putting him in the middle of a spectrum, in which he contrasts favorably with people who are even worse. In order to make Boyle’s reckless journalism seem acceptable, Stone contrasts him with journalists who play it way too safe. In order to get us to accept Boyle’s hedonism, Stone gives him a best friend who is even more reckless.


j.s. said...

Thoroughly enjoying Jerk Week. Not much to add to any of these posts as you're doing your usual bang-up job covering all the bases. I suppose I'm curious about exactly how far a jerk protagonist's sympathy can be ratcheted down before the audience checks out. So I'm hoping you'll end the week with some extreme examples, true antiheroes, like some unrepentant psychopaths and despots.

Matt Bird said...

I've got a big deadline next Monday, so I'll be running Storyteller's Rulebook entries for the next few entries (which are the least labor intensive). That means that this is it for jerk week for now (I was going to do "His Girl Friday" today, but I ran out of time).

One trick I mentioned in my review of "Prick Up Your Ears" (and "Citizen Kane" did this too to a certain extent) is to fracture the narrative, so that you can cover the more likable stuff first, and then backload the more distasteful elements.

As for psychopaths ("American Psycho") and despots ("Nixon") the same answer keeps coming up over and over: class resentment, class resentment, class resentment!