Writing recently about a movie idea the late director Stanley Donen once pitched me reminded me of the problem with movies of that nature.
At least for me.
Donen’s misguided pitch involved a struggling comedian who believes his career would take off if he were black and not white, so he strategically “blacks up” and heads off to The Comedy Store.
Aside from being – you should pardon the expression – racist on its face, there is another issue making that kind of film something I’d be unable to write.
Here’s the thing.
Somewhere – call it the dramatic “turn” at the end of “Act Two” – the secret imposter will have to be “outed.”
Because “A white comedian pretends to be black and no one ever finds out” is not a movie. Forget about actual life, where something like this would never occur. (With some rare Civil War soldier exceptions.) The problem for me is that that type of movie includes an inevitable “Moment of Truth”, where the curtain falls back and the subterfuge is brutally exposed.
Think every movie – none of which I have seen because of the blood – in which an undercover police entity infiltrates “The Mob.”
In Tootsie, the turning “Reveal” elicits a violent slap.
In “Mob” movies… the violent consequence is bigger.
UNDERCOVER POLICE ENTITY: “You know, from a certain perspective, this is actually hilarious. Any chance you could see it that way? Or is it absolutely necessary I be bumped off?”
SMOLDERING MOB BOSS: “The second one.”
Of course, it’s “The second one.” People do not like to be hoodwinked. So there’s the furious slap. Or the retributive “Cement Shoes.”
Why’s that a problem for me?
Because something’s generically “off” with that moment.
That’s why you have never seen Holiday Guy.
Holiday Guy was my idea for a movie based, as usual, on personal experience, because, when it comes to ideas, my imagination is limited to actual events. I don’t know why. I am apparently a scriptwriter who believes he’s a journalist.
Anyway, here’s the idea.
Before I was married, during “Hiatus” periods when the shows I worked on were out of production, I would take trips to exotic places, like Tahiti. To my surprise, I discovered the people I ran into on those trips really enjoyed me. One of them literally said, “You made my whole trip.”
Leading me to wonder, what if there was this woman traveling alone, she bumps into this guy, and he makes her whole trip.
“Bubbling Fun!” don’t you agree?
Sure. Until the fizzy confection comes crashing to the ground at the end of “Act Two” when she learns that the guy she hung out with had been hired by the hotel, posing as a guest to insure the real guests had a memorable time.
Originally, the idea appealed to me. Tropical settings. Humor and playfulness. Making somebody’s day, or actually, their entire vacation.
Then I remembered “The Slap.”
Can I have written it where the woman never finds out, she goes home and she says, “I met this great guy. Nothing serious, but we had a wonderful time”?
Once again, not a movie. It may be a French movie, the bittersweet tale of a man who makes others happy but never himself.
American “payback” requires “The Slap.” The “Slap” is real.
Unfortunately, the movie is not.
And that’s the problem.
It’s like two different worlds, wherein, with “The Slap”, a fake idea meets an actual consequence.
And it’s wrong.
Contrary – okay, popular – Perspective:
“It’s a movie!”
I know. But it’s still wrong.
Those “Slap” scenes must be agonizing to write. Remember that tortured line of dialogue in Tootsie where “Michael Dorsey” explains how his deceitful behavior made him an improved human being?
“I was a better man, as a woman… than I ever was with a woman, as a man.”
That’s terrible, right? Even the people who write that can’t write it.
‘Cause they are writing a lie.
I cannot pull that off.
So I do not even try.