Wednesday, November 09, 2022

The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Is there an epilogue/aftermath/denouement in which the challenge is finally resolved (or succumbed to), and we see how much the hero has changed?

Real life is mostly epilogue. The ramifications of our crises linger for years, and we’re never sure if it turned out right. In fiction, we want tidier concluding moments, although not too tidy. 
  • In exciting stories like Speed, this is often the moment when the hero and heroine take a breather and confirm that they really do care about each other, which often results in a first kiss. 
  • The surviving heroes of The Great Escape get dragged back to prison, content in the knowledge that they’ve caused a huge distraction. 
  • Many comedies, like Date Night, wrap up the dilemma (the marriage problems, in this instance) in a quiet scene just after the climax, which is fine. 
  • In movies like Rear Window, we see that the underlying dilemma (the different interests of Kelly and Stewart) has not been resolved at all, though the climax brought about a temporary truce. This can work, too.
Rulebook Casefile: Reversible Behavior
An interesting thing I noticed when re-watching Ghostbusters was how muted and subtle the character arc was.  Our hero, Bill Murray, never has a midpoint disaster or a spiritual crisis. He never seems to doubt himself or get humbled.  He seems like the same cocky rogue all the way through…or is he?

He does in fact change quite a bit, and it’s set up very nicely through reversible behavior.  In the very first scene, Murray’s paranormal researcher is sabotaging his own ESP experiment just so that he can hit on the test subject.  He doesn’t truly believe in or care about the supernatural, he’s just using it to get dates.  
This scene is neatly reversed two thirds of the way in, when the new object of Murray’s affections, who has so far resisted his advances, throws herself at him.  He’s very tempted, but instead he forces himself to admit that she’s possessed, and he now values solving her problem more than scoring with her.  It’s not played like a big moment, nor should it be.  By subtly contrasting this scene with the first, the movie allows us to notice the difference for ourselves, whether consciously or subconsciously. 

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES, he consummates at his wedding.  There’s even a nice moment where he kicks a floor waxer out of their suite, showing his newfound assertiveness.


YES, she gives a matter-of-fact unapologetic account of blowing up the ship, then goes to sleep with the cat.

An Education

YES. She’s happy at Oxford, with a new boy, pretending that she’s never been to Paris.

The Babadook

YES. It’s half-resolved/half-succumbed-to.  It’s interesting that some behaviors are reversed (She talks about her husband and let’s others do so) but some aren’t, (the basement is still verboten, he son is still violent)

Blazing Saddles

YES. He gives a speech then rides off into the sunset with the Waco Kid. 

Blue Velvet

YES. he’s embraced his parent’s idyllic life and possibly married Sandy, but we see the Robin eating the beetle and we have to wonder if he’s crushed or absorbed the evil, which are two different ways of reading that image. 

The Bourne Identity

YES. he tells her that he has no ID and smiles.  


YES. She enjoys the wedding, bonds with Lillian, accepts the cop’s love.


YES. this time he stands up to the Nazis, then he goes off to join a Free French garrison in Braziville with Louis.


YES. There’s just a brief moment after the finale, when he’s told “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”  

Donnie Brasco

YES.  His family accepts him but he’s disgusted by his medal.

Do the Right Thing

YES. He talks to Sal the next morning.

The Farewell

YES. She returns home to New York, feels overwhelmed, then stops on the street and shouts “Ha!”, which she refused to do before.  We then find out that the grandma is still alive six years later.

The Fighter

YES. Interview, Dicky says, “He put Lowell back on the map.” Micky says “We”.  “Who’s the pride of Lowell now? Right here.” Points at Micky. “I gotta go.”


YES. She’s happy in love, able to live outside the castle, and reconciled with her sister.

The Fugitive

YES. Kimble saves Gerard this time. Gerard also has reversible behavior: “Don’t tell anybody.”

Get Out

YES. He rediscovers peace-making and chooses not to choke Rose to death (but Peele points out that he ultimately leaves her to die alone in the road like his mother died).  Rod delivers the moral: “I told you not to go in that house.”  Chris presumably agrees. 

Groundhog Day

YES. Succumbed to happily: he says “Let’s live here.”

How to Train Your Dragon

YES. He is accepted by the village and is physically transformed.

In a Lonely Place

YES. he watches her walk away and declares himself dead inside.

Iron Man

YES. He tries again with Pepper, but fails, and then tells the world who he is. 

Lady Bird

YES. She goes to church and then calls her mom and leaves a message admitting that she loves Sacramento and her mom. 

Raising Arizona

YES. They send gifts to Nathan Jr. as he grows up.  Maybe they’re able to have kids, or maybe that’s just a dream.


YES. he introduces his real father to everyone, and his selection of song “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger,” lets us know that he’s learned.


YES. Johnson certainly shows how much he’s changed with his “We shall overcome” speech.  Has King changed?  He’s certainly wearier and bruised, and feeling more guilty about the deaths.   We see onscreen graphics telling us what happened to everybody.  

The Shining

NO. an ambiguous final scene was cut out, leaving us with a quick cut to black as soon as they get away.  


YES. He drives north and knocks on her door. There’s no reversible behavior…they could have ended with him drinking merlot to show he’s changed, but that would have been too on the nose (no pun intended.)

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. She says lambs stopped screaming.

Star Wars

YES. He’s now a celebrated hero.

Sunset Boulevard

YES. Earlier in the climax, when he finally has the strength to resist Norma, even when she threatens suicide.  

No comments: