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Script Review: SWEETEST THING, written by former SOUTH PARK writer Nancy Pimental

Reviewed by Darwin Mayflower



NOTE: The screenplays we review are often in development and may experience many rewrites, some could end up being completely different than what is reviewed here. It is our hope that our reviews generate more interest in the film. Thank you.

Back when I wrote my top ten unproduced scripts list, I got an E-mail from a woman who noticed that among the top ten, the additional honorable mentions, and the three scripts picked because the films based on them mucked them up (twenty-three in total), I did not have one script penned by a woman. I commiserated with the E-mailer, saying what is a sad truth: there just arent that many female screenwriters out there. Later, in my readers top ten, I asked anyone who had any female-scripted screenplays to send them in. No one did. But now, finally, I have a script by a woman to review.

I think its a grand-show irony that the woman writes like a man, and tries to outdo all the vile things men do in their movies that the ladies hate.

SWEETEST THING, written by former SOUTH PARK writer Nancy Pimental, is a gross-out comedy from a womans point of view. Women get to take center stage in this oversized-envelope-pushing tale of sex-among-the-young, and, thanks to its author, it lends a nifty new spin to a genre thats been growing older and moldier than a certain crusty stain.

The plot to the script is dashed-off and thoughtless -- a total excuse for a number of gags Pimental dreamed up. Its sort of like a ribald retelling of FORCES OF NATURE -- written by someone who heard its outline. Christina, Courtney and Jane are three friends living in Boston. They revel in their open sexuality and blatant dismissal of men. They good-naturedly refer to themselves as sluts, and they are the opposite-sex version of the rowdy strip-bar-hopping cads featured in every teen-sex B-movie since the late 70s. The only difference is that these women are gorgeous and have the unerring ability to make their prey quiver and drool with the bat of an eyelash.

Out partying one night Chris, our sort of hero, meets up with a man by the name of Peter. They have a Hepburn-Tracy argument that leads, of course, to mutual lust. Christina and Peter are separated at the club. Chris finds out Peters brother, Roger, is having a bachelor party at a nearby hotel and goes looking for him. Once again they cannot get to each other (the party is broken up by the police) and Chris goes away wondering what-could-have-been with nice-guy stranger Peter.

Next day Chris friend Courtney has a crazy idea: Lets crash the wedding and you can hook up with Peter.

Chris thinks the idea is stupid, insane and psychotic -- and then takes off with Courtney.

Theres your plot: straight out of FORCES OF NATURE (which itself is begot from PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES): put two people on the road going to a wedding, have them run into every obstacle you can think of, and intercut whats going on at the wedding.

Pimental is eager to go the extra mile to make you laugh-grimace. There are a number of scenes in this script that had me laughing out loud. A truly good sign. Our talented author is also willing to dismiss movie convention, break all the walls down, and treat you to something she clearly thinks is a good time. Twice in the script the women spontaneously break into song. This is a strangely rare commodity. Even established authors wont go off the STORY page for some reason.

Pimental appears to me to be an untrained writer. (This is purely conjecture; I know nothing of her past.) I find with such writers that they are able to jot down natural-sounding dialogue. Which is true here and one of the scripts assets. The script, in a way, reads like a transcript of Nancy and her friends hanging out one night. Pimental is equally unafraid to shatter screenplay format (probably because she knew this was going to get made). This is something I cherish, if done right, because it can relieve the boredom of the format and goose you into a laugh. Two of the best moments, accordingly, come in the text. In one of the many examples of her loose prose style, Nancy writes this humdinger:


Its what you would expect outside a trendy bar...people giving handjobs for cigarettes...oh no, wait, thats prison...

Another moment of hair-raisingly bizarre dialogue is accompanied by an authors note which informs us it was spoken to our writer. (Laughs bubbled up out of me when I read the authors note; without it it doesnt quite work.)

Pimentals writing also leads to some embarrassingly overstimulated, high-school hysteria like:

"Out of the cab steps Christina, Courtney and Jane. These are the sexiest, best-looking chicks here. Theyre smart and edgy -- but NOT bimbos and NOT bitches!!!!!"

The exclamation points are hers.

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SWEETEST THING is a loose-and-easy, no-thought comedy that hits its mark over and over again. It somehow has a much more dulcet feel than the in-your-face, hammer-your-sensibilities gross-out comedies you find nowadays. If that has anything to do with its female author is not known to me.

(The only time the script veers off the chart is during a gloryhole mishap weve already seen in SCARY MOVIE.)

The weak point to this admittedly funny script is its characters. Much the way men cant write women, Pimental cant write men: they are either commercial-cute or obnoxious. The women arent given much more effort. All you know about Chris and Court is their carelessness about multiple sex partners and their girl-power stance that women should be able to sleep around same as men. When I first started to read these women I was impressed that Pimental would tell it like it is: women have sex lives, they make jokes about the size of mens penises, they have naughty conversations just like the fellas. (I felt it was about time we got the opposite end of, say, SEINFELD and heard womens private thoughts, jokes and jargon for the endlessly fascinating act of sex.) But we never get beyond this and an its-okay-to-be-a-jezebel motto isnt enough of a personality for the star of your movie.

The ending of the script has a pretty nice, didnt-really-see-it-coming twist that lessens the dead weight of the middle. Its also matched with the scripts funniest bit: a madman bank security guard who thinks hes a TV character (this non-sexual bit got the biggest laugh from me).

Theres a problem here that everyone had to see from the get-go: audiences dont like sluts. That may not be right or PC or whatever you want to say. But its true. In movies, if a woman is a "whore," she either has to die or beg for forgiveness. Creating two self-admitting in-the-eyes-of-society hussies as leads was a challenge it looked like Pimental was up for. But -- damnit! -- she goes back on her free-lovin sisters out there for a time-stopping ending of sugary incongruity. In the cold, perfidious reaches of every slut, Pimental says, is the beating heart of a romantic. Chris and Court confess that sleeping around was never really about good, no-strings sex. It was -- and you can gasp with me now -- a desperate means to find a guy that they could really, really wuv. This makes the strong, buck-the-convention ladies weve been watching weak, phony and pitiful. Pimental doesnt seem to realize a woman shouldnt have to apologize for her sexuality. There can be fun, romance and a long-term union. A womans sexuality is still the final frontier in movies.

(It should be noted that David E. Kelley, a man through and through, who cannot have enough praise bestowed on him, is able to write the man-woman relationship thing, funny and dramatic, every week on ALLY MCBEAL with considerable aplomb, peerless competence and with a seemingly no-sweat ease.)

The truth is, Pimental, for all the characters nasty, screw-it dialogue, has created power-chicks as insecure and man-weak as any high-school, braces-wearing wallflower. Remember: Court and Chris race recklessly in their car for a guy that appeared nice. Thats as desperate as it is crazy. Their lives are so empty, their hearts so filled with yearning, theyd take to the road for the hope of Meg Ryan-movie romance and you-finish-first kindness?

Okay, so maybe all this is beside the point. Mary in THERES SOMETHING ABOUT MARY was nothing more than a male-fantasy construct. The kids in AMERICAN PIE were sex-comedy archetypes. The students in SCARY MOVIE were...never mind.

SWEETEST THING is an undisciplined thing, too. Pimental has style, but she doesnt have a sense of movies. The script starts out with interviews. Which, it seems, is how every movie starts nowadays. Having read the script I still see no reason why the interviews are there. Men talk about Chris like shes a MARY-esque too-good-to-be-gotten goddess -- but Chris isnt really our main character. You could make the case that Court is just as important to the movie.

I was surprised and disheartened when I read SWEETEST THING was budgeted at fifty million dollars. I dont want to speak for Pimental, but the script reads like something that should have been shot for ten million bucks, without flash, and lived on its amusing, breezy dialogue.

Roger Kumble (CRUEL INTENTIONS) has directed it -- or, I should say, glossed it up. Cameron Diaz, playing Chris, received an eye-popping fifteen million dollars to star. (Clearly someone mistakenly thought she was the reason MARY made so much dough.) Christina Applegate is Court. The great Selma Blair is Jane (who stays back home on a guy-romp). Thomas Jane is Peter. Jason Bateman (remember him?) is Roger. And Parker Posey, in a role too familiar to her, is the bride-to-be.

Fifty million dollars was the last thing this movie needed. The script is already precariously unfocused. All that money can do is send it skidding off the road.

Nancy Pimental did something really difficult: she made me laugh. As close as this script came toward disaster, it eludes as a purely escapist romp of irreverence with the nice tweak of being from a womans mouth.

It was nasty, dirty, gleefully mocking of male angst, thoughtless, showily un-PC and all that. And it was also a laid-back breeze of a slight comedy with a cornucopia of proof displaying Nancy Pimentals easygoing, salacious talent.

I enjoyed it. And I suspect you will, too.

(One more thing. Pimental is adorable and witty in real life and you can see that for yourself twice daily on Comedy Centrals hit game show WIN BEN STEINS MONEY.)

-- Darwin Mayflower.

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