Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Setup, Reinforce, Reverse

Nathan asked regarding my review of THE ULTIMATE GIFT: “What are the freshman mistakes you think the director made? I'd love to know what your take is.”

Okay, folks, we are entering the world of “things Sean is interested in because this is his field that you may be bored by.” Like listening to insurance salesmen chat about how rising rates adversely effect claims dispensations.

But here goes.

SPOILER ALERT: In answering how this good movie was spoiled, I may spoil a scene for y’all. I’ll try not to. Honest, I will.

Example #1

There is a comedic moment in the story that goes like this:

A Guy (we will call him Guy for purposes of this essay) goes to the hospital to visit his friend, Patient. The room is empty, except for a Nurse making the bed.

Guy: “Where is Patient?”
Nurse: “I’m sorry, Patient has gone to be with G-d.”

The camera focuses on Guy’s shocked look. Smash cut to:

Patient in the chapel, praying.

It’s a pretty funny idea, in my opinion. Nice play on words, with a visual payoff – perfect for film.

And the scene follows the appropriate three point joke structure – send us in a direction (the patient has died!); reinforce the direction (Guy registers that patient has died!); then give us the reversal (the patient hasn’t died, she’s just gone down the hall to be with G-d).

So what’s the problem? The scene I outlined above was not the scene in the movie. In the movie it went like this:

Guy: “Where is Patient?”
Nurse: “I’m sorry, Patient has gone to be with G-d.”

Smash cut to: Patient in the chapel, praying.

The director skipped part two: reinforcing the direction. The audience isn’t given enough time to register what the nurse said before seeing the Patient in the chapel. In other words, the director told the joke this way:

“Oh, the patient isn’t here, the patient is in the chapel, because she went to be with G-d.”

Joke telling 101 messed up; a freshman mistake.

More examples to follow.

Just my thoughts,


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