Sunday, March 15, 2009

Missed Opportunities

I saw the movie SUNSHINE CLEANING tonight, which I liked but didn't love. It has some really great acting, two great female roles and an interesting concept: people who clean up after deaths and violent crimes.

I think there might have been a missed opportunity there - something which I think happens in a lot of scripts. You've got a great concept, or a great situation, or a great conflict - so use it. Push your characters to their limits. Think of the most interesting or surprising or powerful thing that could happen. I don't mean melodrama...but my thought process is, you can do anything in TV and movies (at least at the writing stage). Have fun! Don't hold back. Go there.

In the movie, I kept waiting for the cleaners to find something really crazy or surprising, but they never really did. The movie wasn't really about that, it was about their personal journeys - which I totally get. But why couldn't it have been both? What if they had found ___ during one of the cleanups? I don't know the exact answer, but I feel like maybe there could have been a more interesting movie in there somewhere.

Can you guys think of missed opportunities in movies or TV that disappointed you?

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Monsterbeard said...

I'm going to get chewed out for this, but I was actually disappointed with There Will Be Blood. I loved 90% of that movie but felt that the story became too divergent and ultimately lost focus.

Neil said...

This is going to be a rant, I wanr you.

I was furious about X-Men 3 (as most fans were). The film has a great premise (*cough* Joss Whedon *cough*) but it's not used.

Too much crap is thrown in there - the Phoenix should have just been ignored for this movie. That would have achieved several things:

a) We could have focused on the cure element and had Cyclops in the film for more than 2 minutes
b) People would be waiting for the Phoenix - hence would really want an X-Men 4
c) They would actually have time to engage fully in the Phoenix saga and use it right.

Because they tried two big storylines, they messed them both up which resulted in a crap film.

Another problem - Storm's powers are show time and time again in stupid situations just to show she has them. We need them in the first film to establish character but in the 3rd, we already know!!!

And my biggest problem - they have Colossus in there and don't use him! He has one line and does bugger all in the fights. The Colossus we know and love would be tossing tanks around and smashing his fists through walls all over the place. How dare they have Colossus and not use him? Madness!

So, sorry about the rant, but that's basically what they missed in X-Men 3 and why there will not be a 4th.

Good post btw - gets us talking :)

Randall Bobbitt said...

I agree. The characters were more reactive as opposed to active in 'Cleaning'. I felt that I was a step ahead of the script instead of saying "what's going to happen next?". I think the biggest problem with the script was that the big tragedy in their lives that was revealed by flash back about halfway through really didn't seem to be the BIG THING holding them back in the beginning. It wasn't like OH.. that's why they are so messed up. BUT, I'll take an okay drama who tries new things over a comic book/super hero movie ANYTIME. Support Independent film!

Randall Bobbitt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken R said...

I disagree with your suggestion for a couple reasons.


1. The film reminded me of "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" in the shared gentility of its utterly character-driven story in the midst of higher concept possibility. It was, and should have been, about the people. It also reminded me of Atlantic City in the quirky nature of the characters but that film had more story engine.

2. The sister played by Lisa Blunt did find something at a crime scene which propelled her story. The notion that not everyone with similar traumas requires the same cure was one of the narrative's strongest beats. The whole semi-erotic stalking of the dead woman's daughter and the reveal of their similar losses but different reactions to them was for me as much story-out-of-premise as I needed and as much as this piece required.

3. I also felt the movie missed a little -- Amy Ryan's married boyfriend storyline had more potential and sort of died mid-story which I felt was missing; surely she had gotten the resolve to really break off with him, yet that was never certain given her perpetual vascillation. The relationship between the son and the one-armed man (and Ryan) had places to not necessarily get to, but move towards and they sort of died without putting us on a road -- my thought would have been to explore more clearly resolving Ryan's affair (which I thought could have played out more at the baby shower) and intimate some possibility with the one-armed man.

I also think we left some of the competition between the rival clean-up crews at the starting gate, but assume that will be handled in the Alice-like series that ruins the memory of a great film....

I would rather have a little film like this miss a few beats though than watch a two hundred million dollar special effects piece which has noting right with it except the sound effects editing.

Laura said...

The ending of Coupling (the British TV show) disappointed me, because it just... stopped. I really feel like only two characters (Steve and Susan) got actual, complete arcs.

- Geoff was out of the country (which is never explained) and he may or may not have broken up with his girlfriend.
- Sally and Patrick may or may not have broken up because he slept with Jane,
- Jane and Oliver may or may not have slept together.

It was such a let-down to an otherwise awesome show.

The Bitter Script Reader said...

Totally off the top of my head... I always felt that "I Know What You Did Last Summer" was a missed opportunity for a morality play. Imagine the same set-up, minus the slasher killer, where the drama is focused on how keeping the secret weighs on each of the teens involved. To be honest, there's nothing keeping that element from being developed even with the slasher in the movie.

Amanda said...

Ken -
The actresses are Amy Adams and Emily Blunt - but yes, Emily's character did find something that sent her on a journey. It was really Amy's movie though, so I kind of wanted the cleaning to yield something more for her...

Don't get me wrong. The movie is totally worth seeing.

Eric Myers said...

"Liked it, didn't love it."

I always laugh when I hear that but it's true of so many freakin'movies.

Thanks for the post(and the laugh).

cind said...


Amanda, you are spot-on about this movie. There was so much that could have happened in the second act -- Amy and the one armed man exploring their relationship, a bigger climax between Amy and and Steve Zahn -- and of course, more focus on the cleaning. I kept asking the question "Why is cleaning houses the only thing this character can do?" I was hoping the answer would come, or that by cleaning crime scenes she would discover something that changes her. But it was her sister who made the discovery; I'm not really sure what Amy Adams' character's arc was or how this story changed her. Emily Blunt's character stole the show. Though the film was overall beautifully acted -- both Emily and Amy did an amazing job -- the characters were off balance, and the movie suffered.

I felt that both the hook (two women with no experience clean crime scenes) and the characters' journeys (two women with nothing find themselves and rebuild their lives) were interesting and great, but they remained separate through much of the film. It was almost as if there were two stories being told that kind of sort of overlapped but never were fully realized.

T Michael Goslin said...

I agree about Sunshine Cleaning. It was a good concept with missed opportunities. Another let down was Pineapple Express. They tried to mix the stoner comedy genre with action and it didn't work. Not to say that it couldn't work because I think that's a great idea, but with awkwardly improved death scenes, it seemed unsure of whether it was a black comedy, a stoner comedy, or an action comedy. At least they had the comedy part, although I still thought it could be much funnier. Tropic Thunder pulled it off nicely. Also, Ruthless People, nails the black comedy concept to a T.

Anonymous said...