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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

DcH, I really enjoyed "Match Point."  What do you think script-wise?

Bruce H. from Cairo 

This week's Answer: 

Set, Match, Winning Script

Bruce, I appreciate your e-mail and that you appreciated Match Point, as I definitely also did.  Everything starts with the script.  There's nothing without that first foundation block (which gives a new meaning to "script-wise," it being wise to think "script" first).  And this one is a dilly ("dilly" is an extremely technical term in script  talk that means "a script that is a dilly."  In case you were wondering.)  Why is this script a superb example of good screenwriting?  I'm glad you asked.  Oh, before I go on (and I do have a tendency to do so), I need to mention:

Warning:  If You Haven't Seen Match Point (and we're not just talking about any tennis match), be forewarned that the plot of the story may be mentioned, thereby revealing an important moment in the story, which you may not want to know about before you see the movie.


Or don't worry about it.

Okay, now that I've claimed my disclaimer so that won't get hate e-mail from those who haven't seen the film and weren't forewarned that the plot of the story may be mentioned, thereby revealing an important moment in the story, which you may not want to know about before you see the movie, I can proceed.  (I have to admit that I'm feeling font-challenged with these big letters over my head.  But I'll forge on.)

The beauty of Match Point is that it is essentially a drama about a murder prompted by passion and circumstance.  This storyline has been used in many, and I mean "many," screenplays.  But what stands this screenplay apart from the general flock, is that it moves and transitions with such subtle precision, catching us up in the moment at the exact time the characters, primarily the lead, the ambitious and aggressive young man and his love interest, the struggling actress, are caught up in it.  There's very little of "Oh-Oh, here it comes" thinking on the audience's part because it is already here before we have time to think of it.  

Another brilliant aspect of the plot is that it leads us down a path that appears to be that of the tragic hero who will pay for his crime of passion.  We're sure of it; we know this path well.  We know this story.  We're clever, sophisticated viewers who can read nuance in dialogue and in opening voiceovers.  That's true.  But the author, Mr. Woody Allen, took that into consideration and masterfully used that very fact to give us a false sense of security in our intellectual prowess and masterminds what many would call a "twist," but, upon deeper inspection, he simply played out the "game" all the way without inserting that third act turn of events that turns the tables on the killer, and, instead, the author's third act plot point (the ring not making it over the ledge) turns the tables on the forces of good (the law looking for the killer) and allows the protagonist (a definite anti-hero since he is the killer -- or should we call him an "anti-protagonist"?  Woody might.) to barely escape detection, allowing him to get away with the murder.  Definitely something our senses and senses of justice and our visceral and nervous system are not used to.  Where's the pat, perfect, tidy ending where all is righted and the wronged are vindicated and the doers of wrong meet their retribution?   Where's that twist we've all come to love and expect that will undo the bad doer?  (Could it be that we must untwist what we've already, in a sense, twisted and projected in our own minds to allow us our momentary and, according to us, much-deserved catharsis of righteousness and justice?)  

The charismatic, basically sympathetic key character we followed, with very little forethought (unlike some of the classic murderers who killed for power such as MacBeth -- although he, like MacBeth, and other Shakespeare's tragic heroes, is visited by ghosts of murdered ones), letting passion and avarice rule him, quickly becomes a murderer.  Wait a sec here; he was such a soft-spoken, nice guy!  How could this be?  The author did his own version of soft-speaking as he laid the groundwork, the understated setups (as story analysts are want to say).  Our lead character early on did reveal his intensity, his lust, his strong drive to succeed.  We just didn't think those traits would lead him to murder.  And a murder of a woman he coveted so fully.  How did that happen?  We thought he loved her.  How is it that, just because of a weak toss of a ring (Tolkein or Peter Jackson might have something to say about that), the murderer, who we used to like, but no longer consider him to be on the side of good, gets off Scott-free (Scott might have something to say about that)?

Maybe this perfectly crafted screenplay is a case of art REALLY imitating life.

Do you think?



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