On trial: Do the characters listen poorly?
Why it was added: This is a tricky one. I, personally, love scenes where neither character is listening to others, but my brother says that this is because I, personally, don’t listen to what others are saying. This is possible. Regular reader James Kennedy raised an objection to this one, pointing out that improv teachers teach actors to always listen closely to the other character in order to act better. So which is it?
How do the checklist movies answer this question?
- Alien: Yes, they all keep ignoring each other’s concerns.
- An Education: Yes.
- The Babadook: Yes. Davis has a great “not really listening” face.
- Blazing Saddles: Not really.
- Blue Velvet: They’re fairly good listeners.
- The Bourne Identity: Not really, they’re pretty good listeners
- Bridesmaids: Lillian doesn’t hear that Annie doesn’t want to do it, etc.
- Casablanca: Yes. Rick keeps asking Sam for advice and then failing to hear it.
- Donnie Brasco: Yes.
- Do the Right Thing: Very much so.
- The Fighter: Very much so.
- The Fugitive: Very much so.
- Groundhog Day: Yes.
- How to Train Your Dragon: Very much so.
- In a Lonely Place: Very much so.
- Iron Man: Very much so. Tony never listens, period.
- Raising Arizona: Yes.
- Rushmore: Yes.
- The Shining: Yes, very much so.
- Sideways: Very much so.
- Silence of the Lambs: Sort of, Clarice and Lecter both listen very well, but that’s key to their characters, so it’s fine.
- Star Wars: Owen and Luke talk past each other, nobody listens to Threepio, etc.
- Sunset Boulevard: Very much so. He and Norma never seem to hear a thing the other says.
The verdict: Combine with the following questions to become “Do the characters listen poorly and/or interrupt each other more often than not?”? And/or is there a better way to rephrase it to eliminate James’s objection? What say you: Does listening generally help or hurt a scene/story/perfomance?