STEINBECK'S POINT OF VIEW
April 30th, 2004
Script Review: STEINBECK'S POINT OF VIEW, written by Brandon Camp and Mike ThompsonReviewed by Darwin Mayflower
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The reason I was so eager to read this script was because it was a huge spec sale. This script sold for over one million dollars, and with a duo of other blind-script commitments, the writers, Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson, made upwards of four million dollars. Tremendous spec sales arent rare -- David Koepp is the king right now -- but what made STEINBECK'S POINT OF VIEW unusual was its subject matter. STEINBECK is a drama. And for the most part big payoff spec-market sales are for the latest rip-roaring action vehicle.
Im sure every screenwriter out there who didnt feel like writing Harrison Fords next run-around-somewhere-with-a-gun was happy to see a change in the air. Now, it said, you could write about human emotion and still get the big bucks.
This makes it a double shame that STEINBECK works out to be just about as bad as a script can get.
(And by the way -- most of those action spec scripts get slammed. But, for my money, Koepps THE PANIC ROOM and Shane Blacks THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT get the job done in ways more "serious" films will never understand.)
STEINBECK is a real stinker, if I may state it so simply; it is annoying and maudlin and outlandish and occasionally bizarre. The characters are transparent and the plot might have been cooked up by a drugged-out insane asylum patient (or, his brother up high, a studio head).
Tom Bailey (to be played by Richard Gere) is a big-time real estate broker. He could sell ice to an Eskimo, etc. Tom, who has no family, works hard. Every moment of his life is devoted to his job. And you know what that means. It means hes a workaholic. Which also means hes evil or something is wrong with him. Ill tell ya -- workaholics have been given a bad name by the movies. In some cases, it should be noted, being a workaholic is a good thing. In the old days they called it ambition. I notice that in movies if you want the character to be disliked by the audience you only have to do one of three things: make him or her smoke, have him or her be mean to a child, or make them a workaholic.
Tom has a tumor in his liver. He refuses to talk about it or deal with it. That is until there is a plane crash on the property he used to live on as a boy. Tom goes to the site, for no real reason, and runs into a nice young fella hanging around. Tom and the man exchange words and it appears as though the man lost his fiancée in the accident. Tom drives back home, shaken by the events, and cannot get back to his job. It seems worthless to him now. While reading about the crash he sees...a picture of the man he was talking to among other victims of the wreck! Could it be? Was he talking to a ghost -- or is he insane? Tom travels back to the site (he goes back and forth about ten times in a week) and searches for the man. He doesnt find him, but does discover a ring seemingly growing out of a vine. It is the ring the man was going to give to his girlfriend (we later learn he was dumping his entire life behind and heading for her). Tom, somewhat irrationally, tracks the woman down. In one of the many examples of the writers strange way of dealing with extraordinary events, the womans reaction is odd beyond belief. First of all, we come into the conversation after hes told her (eliminating her initial response). When we do arrive, Amy, the woman, isnt so much shocked as put off. She comes off almost irritated. Only in the end saying Tom must be crazy (which is a fair assessment, I think).
|Script Sale Facts - provided by Hollywoodlitsales.com|
Mike Thompson and Brandon Camp sold STEINBECK'S POINT OF VIEW to Warner Bros. and Bel Air Ent., they were represented by the Broder-Kurland-Webb-Uffner Agency.
Tom drops his life and moves onto the property where the plane crashed. Tom thinks the young mans appearance was some sort of divine intervention. Tom is supposed to do something here -- but what? He assumes its to regrow the vineyard from the desiccated earth.
Tom goes about this, with the ebullience of a man on a mission. Totally by accident he finds a camera in the dirt. He develops the film and sees pictures of esoteric plants and also a photo of a man as the plane is going down.
Tom looks up the wife of the man and learns he was a scientist working on a cure for cancer. Tom thinks this is the answer (The Plan) -- to take the mans exotic plants (and an experimental cure for cancer) -- and does. Literally stealing it right in front of the mans traumatized kid!
Tom smokes the plants like they were pot -- growing more and more angry as it hastens his illness rather than alleviates it.
Soon Amy arrives to tell him she believes and together they try to figure out what the message from God is. What basically happens is that they find various personal effects (keys, music sheets) from dead passengers and seek out their relatives. Theyre playing metaphysical connect-the-dots. And while doing so inexplicably fall in love! Listen. I know that when two attractive people are together alone the chances are great theyll be going at it in a week. But Tom is dying. Amy is getting over Kevin. And, my God, theyre tracking down relatives of dead people and are living on a field where those dead people died in a horrific plane crash! Whats worse is that the authors are too spineless to really push the romance ahead. They hang Tom and Amy on a yo-yo and flick it with only enough force to suggest theyll go through with it. Either have them come together or dont -- one hundred pages of flirting (as inexpertly written as it is here) is like sitting next to a man who has never showered on a packed train.
I dont think Im giving anything away when I tell you the "cure" wasnt for Toms tumor, but was, in fact, for the deceaseds families. Toms grapes miraculously grow and Amy -- without Toms help because his health is failing -- bottles the wine herself. The families arrive (simply because Tom asked them to in a letter). Drink the wine. Feel good for the first time since the accident. And can suddenly "feel" the people who left them inside their bodies. The football players father can throw a football (which was at the site) sixty yards. The pianists mother can play the piano. The ballerinas mom can dance.
While the family members flit around like kids high on sody-pop, the glowing-and-nearly-invisible spirits of the departed watch from the sky with blissful smiles. The cure, Tom says, was for these people -- so they could have some sort of comfort after the tragedy.
We pause now. Because weve been gaping, in brain-locked horror, at the proceedings.
Are we supposed to accept this? This easy-answers, teeth-rottingly sugary, outrageously simple-minded nonsense?
This script oh-so-benevolently tells you its okay to croak because theres nothing to worry about. Dont lament the passing of your mother or wife, my brother, because shes looking down with a beatific grin right now! Why, if youre lucky her change purse may even insanely grow on a vine where she died!
STEINBECKs creepy New Age sentiment of not fearing death because it brings you to a better place, coupled with its abject, depthless-pit sentimentality, makes PATCH ADAMS look like THE SEVENTH SEAL.
Its so sickly sweet and saccharine it might possibly put you in a diabetic shock.
This script is strangely akin to another spec-market-masters: bad-boy Joe Eszterhas. While it works in the opposite to his -- no sex or drugs, just nauseating views on life -- its similar in how it has absolutely nothing to offer. The story is so weak and narrow-minded we dont have much to do but watch the dissipating Tom waste away while he cultivates his vineyard. The constant, repetitious treks to the families of crash victims was unintentionally morbid, and felt oddly like we were watching stalkers who prey on tragedy. Tom and Amy have no idea what theyre dealing with, but they go right ahead and tell these people that their loved ones still exist. Tom, Amy and all the rest of the people we meet speak in an alien patois that only the authors could possibly understand. In a David Milch-like move, the authors seem to have pretentiously removed words the people might skip in their below-adequate English. Everyone is also given to longwinded stories that read like F. Scott Fitzgerald as interpreted by a five year old.
STEINBECKS POINT OF VIEW is an offensive pile of mawkish garbage that lets us off the hook when it comes to emotional maturity and dealing with something devastating like death. It is the Bible drawn in crayon. The story we tell kids when their parents die before they can appreciate the astounding idea that the body gives out one day.
STEINBECKS POINT OF VIEW is a syrupy "spiritual" tale (where spiritual needs quotation marks) that drives middle-class American thoughts and high-steps under the heading of "light entertainment" and "good-hearted" and "family material" and "uplifting" and every other sanctimonious term they can shade their shame with and justify their cause.
It has the subtlety of an Elephant stampede and is the worst example of Emperors-new-clothes spec-sales Ive ever seen.
STEINBECK is bad -- period. It doesnt have a redeeming sentence. It is not just bad writing, but a repulsive animal with little intelligence and large claws.
STEINBECKS POINT OF VIEW is a script packaged as an unctuous Bible salesmen who worms his way in and leads with his greasy charm and not his belief in what hes selling.
Its sickly sweetness can fell a buffalo; its characters could bore an old person in a retirement home; its plot is so scattershot it feels like a Jackson Pollock painting at his most frenzied and least controlled; it reduces itself to characters dying, seeing themselves bereaved, and wondrously coming back to life.
STEINBECKS POINT OF VIEW fails on every level and needs not only to be stopped, but set afire, stomped on, grated, and tossed out to sea.
One can only hope its stench does not linger.
-- Darwin Mayflower.