So how are we doing? Are these interesting? Is there a book here? I think it’s time soon for a round-up piece halfway through the alphabet where I start sifting this data and thinking about how to turn this into an interesting book. And I think maybe we need to add some more categories to look for in every movie. More on that soon...
- By design, the movie never wants us to fully identify with Dix (a name that is not coincidental.) The movie wants us to be unsure if we should empathize with an unjustly accused man, or skeptical of a possibly guilty man.
- Dix may be a downer, but his personality nevertheless sparkles: The girl at the bar complains that he never picks up the phone when she calls: “Don’t you like to talk anymore?” “Not to people who have my number.” Later, she says, suggestively, “Remember how I used to read to you?” He responds, “Since then I’ve learned to read by myself.”
- When we first meet Dix, a kid asks for his autograph, only to be told by a friend, “Don’t bother, he’s nobody.” Dix says, “She’s right.” He’s down and out.
- We empathize with his panic when the hat check girl in his apartment cries out “Help! Help!” while reading out the plot of the novel.
- And of course, there’s nothing that makes us care more than seeing a character falsely arrested …if it is false.
- He’s not famous enough for the kid to appreciate his autograph, but most people know and respect him, including the woman in the next car over at a stoplight.
- He’s the only one who’s kind to the old, drunken actor, so we feel we can trust him.
- We agree with him about his disdain for the book and Mildred. We admire his wit.
- Eat: He has a drink with friends. He eats eggs at home
- Exercise: Not really. Hops out of his car to start a road-rage fist-fight.
- Economic Activity: He’s considering taking on a screenwriting job.
- Enjoy: He’s amused by his own wit, but he doesn’t enjoy much.
- Emulate: He’s supposed to emulate more successful writers, but he refuses.
- “I won’t work on something I don’t like.” “Are you in any position to be choosy?” He sneers back: “You know what you are, you’re a popcorn salesman.”
Yeah, if we were wholly believing, caring, and investing in Dix, the end wouldn't work as well as it does. Damn, that ending. (Heh - imagine Michael Arndt tackling that one. "Total Failure" indeed.)
"Is there a book here?" Honestly, I'm not sure. The core idea is strong, but these posts are so brief there's not a lot upon which to judge book potential. The conclusions from the data will provide a better case to judge. If you can find insights beyond the typical blah-de-blah or generate practical advice, then yeah, there's a book in it.
An uncalled-for suggestion from the internet peanut gallery: negative examples. Both of when the "Believe Care Invest" structure isn't attempted and also when it's tried and fails. The contrast between the successful and failed versions would be illuminating. I learn quite a bit from seeing what doesn't work. Not just failures due to half-assing, either. No doubt there are clear, obvious, smart approaches to characterization that don't work.
For extra difficulty, it could be interesting would be to dig into movies/books/whatever that succeed in parts but not all of that process, to draw out what that means. Is it possible to skip a step? You care and invest in a character but never believe? Or believe and invest but never care?
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