5 Recent Films For Which We Really Deserve Screenwriter Apologies
Screenwriter apologies may or may not develop into a hot new Hollywood trend, but the recent mea culpas from Monster House's Dan Harmon and Battlefield Earth's J.D. Shapiro suggest a simmering remorse among many of the town's schlock-scribes. Nevertheless, Harmon and Shapiro's contrition seems a little... off. Like, those big checks you get upon starting and completing a studio project? They're not for the work -- one's a down payment on your pride, and the other buys your silence. What would really be impressive if the screenwriters of misconceived labors of "love" or otherwise auteurist fare came out and said, "Well, I effed that one up. Sorry about that!" Read on for a few recommended trailblazers of this movement, and by all means suggest your own in the comments.
[In chronological order]
· Hounddog (2007)
Apologizer: Deborah Kampmeyer
Kampmeyer's drama, known in early stages of development as Untitled Dakota Fanning Rape Movie, was behind the eight-ball before it even emerged from its cave at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. But no one could have imagined the hoary Southern gothic tropes Kampmeyer would foist on both her cast and her audience, from Fanning hurling ethnic slurs at the film's stock "magical Negro" to David Morse going full-retard after his character was actually blown off a tractor by a lightning bolt to Piper Laurie getting all muumuu matronly up in everyone's business. It was like the filmmaker forgot to lock the basement where she kept her inbred, knuckle-dwelling troglodyte of script, and it escaped into the cultural wilderness. A full-blown recut helped matters a little bit in 2008, but that only means she owes three apologies: One to viewers, one to the actors, and a big one to her editors.
· Revolutionary Road (2008)
Apologizer: Justin Haythe
A number of things went wrong on the way to adapting Richard Yates's 1960 masterpiece of suburban angst and inertia, from the casting to director Sam Mendes's misunderstanding of the material to the cynical Oscar-baiting of the whole enterprise. But it all began with a screenplay by Haythe, who wrote it at the same age (34) that Yates wrote his novel, yet completely overlooked how the period -- its sexual politics, its class hierarchies, its stunted bohemia -- informed the slow, agonizing immolation of Frank and April Wheeler's marriage. Instead, it was just a faster-louder-harsher combustion of people treating each other like crap. Its failure also hastened this year's official Mendes/Kate Winslet split; they, too, deserve an apology of their own.
· Seven Pounds (2008)
Apologizer: Grant Nieporte
On the one hand, it takes some serious chutzpah to even attempt to write a story interweaving heart transplants, the IRS, jellyfish, beach houses and whatever else I've scrubbed from my memory. But it takes some kind of evil genius to maneuver the script to a place where Will Smith will not only read it, but also make the freaking thing. Smith hasn't appeared onscreen or even chosen his next project since [SPOILER ALERT] taking a bath with his poisonous marine pal; it's a troubling development for studios and viewers alike, and Nieporte needs to take some responsibility if our culture is ever going to get over it.
· Funny People (2009)
Apologizer: Judd Apatow
"Death comes for the Sausage King," wrote one observer of Apatow's bloated, maudlin spelunking journey into his own navel. Beyond the waste of talent and money and the filmmaker's worsening lack of narrative discipline, there must be some part of even Judd Apatow's ego that kicks in when the words "INT. KITCHEN -- DAY / Montage of dog licking peanut butter off my wife and children" appear on the page. And what was that climax with Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann and Eric Bana? All the more offensive coming from a guy who knows he's good -- and is most definitely better than this.
· Remember Me (2010)
Apologizer: Will Fetters
Your outrage may vary over Fetters's use of a certain devastating terrorist attack as the emblem of star-crossed love and family reconciliations, but let it suffice to say Fetters will look back on this in 10 years and wonder what the hell he was thinking. Better late than never.