Monday, May 16, 2022

The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero commit to pursuing the opportunity by the end of the first quarter?

It’s easy to overemphasize the commitment scene. It’s okay for heroes to be knee-deep before they realize they’re committed. Bruce Willis spends the entire first half of Die Hard just trying to call the cops, not realizing that as soon as he stole those detonators, he had pretty much committed himself to taking down the bad guys alone. 

Sometimes it’s possible to skip over the actual commitment scene, jump-cutting right from hesitation to a conflict that arises after committing. In Some Like It Hot, the guys are still having a heated debate about whether they should dress up as women when we suddenly cut to the two of them wobbling down the train platform in heels.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES. He agrees to go out with them.


Only slightly, she gingerly starts to assert herself, but waits until after the midpoint disaster to assert herself.

An Education

YES. Beforehand really. This movie has a very long 2nd act: she’s committed by ten minutes in.

The Babadook

YES. It’s late, but by a third of the way through, (32 minutes) she has a plan: Use sedatives until tests come back and a state-appointed psychiatrist can come. 

Blazing Saddles

YES. Well, he commits right away, but because the movie takes time setting up its premise, it’s more than a third over by the time he rides into town. 

Blue Velvet

YES. sooner.

The Bourne Identity

YES. he decides he won’t let himself be taken and takes a gun from someone else.  




NO. he drags it out, paralyzed with indecision, and lashes out at her when she tries to explain.


YES. Yes.

Donnie Brasco

YES.  Lefty introduces him to Sonny Black as “a friend of ours”, the first step to getting made.

Do the Right Thing

YES. When Buggin’ Out announces his boycott, Mookie promises Sal that he’ll shut it down, which is his interpretation of “Do the right thing” at this point.  

The Farewell

YES. She buys her own ticket and surprises everybody. 

The Fighter

YES. She pursues him and they hook up.


NO. Sort of.  Elsa runs away and Anna goes after her.  Will this help her solve her own problem, or is it just selfless?  Presumably, with Elsa simply missing, Anna will be in no position to become queen herself and marry whom she wants, so it’s sort of solving her own problem.  

The Fugitive

YES. he’s cutting his hair and going on the run.  

Get Out

YES. He sort of agrees to let Missy hypnotize him, putting himself in their power. 

Groundhog Day

YES. After two repetitions, he decides that this could be fun.

How to Train Your Dragon

YES. Goes back to the dragon.

In a Lonely Place

YES. Indirectly: He commits to pursuing the girl, and she commits to solving his problems for him.

Iron Man

YES. He builds the armor and escapes. 

Lady Bird

YES. She’s applying to schools, doing theater, and pursuing Danny.

Raising Arizona

YES. They take the kid.


YES. Earlier.


YES. He mobilizes his army. 

The Shining

YES. Jack: Yes, he begins the job.  Danny: yes, he starts pursuing the ghosts.


YES. …but just barely. At minutes 32 of a 127 minute movie, he reluctantly accepts an arranged date with Maya.

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. Follows up on Lecter’s clues.

Star Wars

YES. He commits late, at 38 minutes in: “I want to come with you to Alderan, there’s nothing here for me now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.” 

Sunset Boulevard

YES. In a relatively passive way: he accepts that they’ve brought his bags over.  

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