WHY CANT I BE AUDREY HEPBURN?
April 30th, 2004
Script Review: WHY CANT I BE AUDREY HEPBURN?
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.
Audrey Hepburn was so incredibly pulchritudinous that she created her own category of beauty. The birdlike fragility. The sweetness tinged with maturity. A sense of a life lived well, but without the erosion of cynicism. The unquenchable spirit of a five year old coupled with a smile that could easily light up a room. Audrey Hepburn, with her almond-shaped eyes, flaring cheekbones, melodious voice, impeccable manner, impossible-not-to-love softness and gentleness, that aura of an angel on earth, was, without a doubt, our greatest star ever. Male or female. Young or old. Alive or dead. There is simply no one who can compare. Audrey possessed that recherché ability to class up a project she was in, no matter how bad, and make it instantly watchable. It never mattered if the movie she was in was weak (and, lets face it, there were a few stinkers); you would still sit back with a smile, drinking her in, almost grateful to be able to behold her. She personifies everything that makes reel life (the one on the screen) so special. Because an ethereal beauty like that, though Audrey was a real person, is just like a beloved movie: breathtakingly attractive, glowingly perfect, close in looks to reality, but a chasms jump from real life. This was true of her in dated fare like the overblown, hyperbolic "thriller" WAIT UNTIL DARK (which David Koepp and David Fincher are basically remaking with THE PANIC ROOM), but especially true of gorgeously romantic, fun classics like MY FAIR LADY and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS.
Having said that, youll know why I was so disappointed that writer Ryan Murphy didnt evoke the exquisite Audrey more in his script WHY CANT I BE AUDREY HEPBURN?
Murphy (who created the TV show POPULAR) puts Audrey in the title, but he doesnt really seem interested in her. Or, rather, his main character, Perry Forman, doesnt. Shes more obsessed with BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS than anything else. So much so I think the script should be retitled WHY CANT I STAR IN BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS?
Perry is an anchorwoman who has made a specific Plan (notice the capital P) for her life. She wants a perfect career, a perfect husband, a perfect child, and a comfortable life. The only thing she forgot is that it all comes with happiness and while in the whirlwind of her Plan she forgot this. I suppose I didnt have to tell you that because what else happens to a person in a movie who has a Plan?
Perry is about to marry the so-nice-hes-bland Ross Miller. But on their wedding day Ross comes to a hard, screaming truth: hes not ready and he has no idea how he came to this point in his life. Like Perry, he too had a Plan. Work hard and make money -- Stay On The Upward Path. But hes never lived, as a Chekhov character once lamented, and he runs off. Leaving Perry at the altar.
And heres the setup of all setups. Ross despised best friend, Sam, stays behind to comfort the woman who hates him. Not only does Sam take Perry for a spin on the dance floor -- he, look at this, makes a reference to an Audrey Hepburn movie. Well, by God, I think we have a winner here, folks. And we do. Perry and Sam see more of each other. Perry drops her animus low enough to acknowledge that Sam, a firefighter, is a nice-looking, easygoing guy she can easily see herself with. Even if he doesnt drive a BMW or have a Plan. Sam, on the other end, dips his derisive view of Perry long enough to see shes an attractive, smart woman who he has an easy rapport with. Someone he can feel himself falling in love with. Even if she can be a "ruthless go-getter."
We know theyre right for each other. They know theyre right for each other. So why dont they just do it already? The answer: the screenwriter needs to fill one hundred pages of text. The issue of betraying Ross (who, of course, betrayed Perry) is moot because Sam and Perry sleep with each other almost right away -- even before the realization in both parties comes that they love each other.
With this opposites-attract, factory-produced love-affair-to-be presented so early -- we know as soon as Ross talks about Sam and Perry not liking each other that theyll be together by the end -- were literally sitting back waiting, scene after scene, for them to finally stop acting like children and just get it over with.
The script becomes painfully tautological and were subjected to repeated scenes of both Sam and Perry saying "I-know-I-should, but..." and "Shes-really-great, but..." and "I-really-love-him, but..." The explanation that both have been hurt by love (Sams mom was in a loveless marriage) just doesnt cut it.
Neither one has much of an interesting personal life. And Perrys anchor job, and its young-woman-taking-her-spot subplot, is right out of a bad soap opera. We never get to see Sam battle any blazes. And having Perrys best friend George, whos gay, adopt a child and have to deal with it feels absolutely out of nowhere.
When Perry and Sam finally do join together Ryan steals three or four scenes straight out of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS. Im all for homage. And it can be really funny. But whats the point of showing it exactly as it happened in the first film? Without even a real joke surrounding it to make it funny in context? If I want to see this Ill just buy the originals DVD.
Murphy might have put Audrey in his scripts title, but his view of her is just more retrograde banality. Audrey, he reiterates, is only loved by gay men and if youre a straight male and know her movies its a great way to get girls in bed. This thought, of a certain actress being special to only gay men and females, and the knowledge of her movies being a foolproof way of "scoring" a woman, is so old it has wrinkles.
And thats another thing about WHY CANT I BE AUDREY HEPBURN? -- it feels old. In the wake of the similar MY BEST FRIENDS WEDDING (Perry even has a gay best friend, remember) and the TV show ALLY MCBEAL this script feels like a cheap imitation. Perry has all the tics and wild gesticulations of Julia Roberts in WEDDING and Calista Flockhart in ALLY. Theres all the talk of staying single forever and fearing age and the horrors of dating and the dearth of good men. David E. Kelley would probably never go down the road WHY CANT I BE AUDREY HEPBURN? does, but it reads like an off episode of his hit TV show.
Murphys depiction of a woman scorned is pitying verging on mocking. That Perry sits and mopes and cries and tells everyone she cant go on now that Ross has dumped her makes her pitiful and unlikable. Obviously shes going to be upset that she was left at the altar. But whats so special about Ross that shed want him back? From the looks of it hes just a dull guy with above-average looks.
Murphy seems to assume a woman wouldnt be strong enough to forget Ross, pick up Sam, and go on with her life. She needs the big strong fireman-hero to save her. If shes that weak -- why should we care about her?
The script ends on its falsest note: Sam is rescuing people from a building; Perry, who goes back into the field, is covering it for TV; Sam, brave hero he, goes back in to save a little girls cat. Oh, no! The building collapses! Will Sam live?
One interesting side note on this script: Steven Spielberg optioned it a few years ago and put it atop his large cache of scripts he plans, one day, to make. But, like with other comedy scripts, such as MEET THE PARENTS, he never really intended to make it and the rights reverted back to Ryan Murphy and hell be producing the film.
Its too bad Perry wasnt seized by a love for Audrey, and, in her loss, used Audrey to cope. That might have been something to watch. A ridiculed infatuation utilized to alleviate a pain that runs deep.
That didnt happen. But Im not taking Murphy to task for not writing the movie I wanted to see. He wrote what he wanted to see and, with the right actress and the right energy (and maybe a rewrite here and there), who knows what he might have on his hands.
But this script, unlike the actress in its title, doesnt have even the dimmest light within it.
-- Darwin Mayflower.