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_apology.jpg

· 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.



Comments

  • NP says:

    I would like to add _The Box_ to this list.

  • theDudeinLA says:

    Top of the list should be Linda Wolverton's and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland!

  • RebeccafromDC says:

    Um, overthink much? Life is full of disappointments, and sometimes those disappointments are movies! Get over it. :)-

  • Oh, man. Absolutely. Good call.

  • Scott Teems says:

    This whole apology thing has been pretty amazing to behold, and this post is typically hilarious and mostly spot-on -- with one exception, and I'm compelled to come to a fellow writer's defense. Grant Nieporte's original script for SEVEN POUNDS was a mysterious, riveting, very solid piece of writing. Don't blame him for what you saw on the screen. Once it got to the studio, it was changed significantly, particularly in regards to the film's big reveal. And by "changed," I mean they made it stupid. And the sad truth is that Grant's case is generally the rule, not the exception. "Compelling" and "mysterious" and "challenging" aren't words that studios tend to embrace. This doesn't completely absolve these writers of their sins, of course, but its worth noting that they are not alone in their guilt.

  • Cribbster says:

    I'm pretty sure "Revolutionary Road" was pretty fantastic, actually. And even if it isn't, it certainly ain't apology-worthy.

  • Lucas says:

    Remember Me was sappy but actually not that horrid. Especially compared to the other four on your list.
    but it does bring to mind a title I would like an apology for. Breaking Dawn. yeah the book not yet (and hopefully never) made into a movie. I was forced to read the series to vet them for my younger sibs and while I could deal with the first three okay, Breaking Dawn was clearly written to make money off fans that were demanding official answers blah blah. And it's horrible. Completely illogical and just plain bad at times.
    And now I hear that she's spinning off some 2 page minor character from Eclipse into a novella. And there's interest in filming it. Ugh.

  • Tracy says:

    Seriously? I agree with 7 Pounds it is a pretty horrible movie. But to apologize for making a movie? Please, it is up to taste whether someone loves or hates a movie and I count myself as someone who loved both Revolutionary Road and Remember Me. I think the problem here is that critics or society or what have you, dislike films that present life too realistically al la Revolutionary Road or Remember Me.

  • Thanks for that, Scott. Point(s) taken.

  • Thom says:

    I agree that Funny People has a lot of problems, but you're overlooking the fact that just about EVERY Sandler vehicle from the past decade warrants apologies from their screenwriters, directors, actors, wardrobe people, etc.

  • Revolutionary Road is not fantastic. If I want to spend two hours of my life with miserable assholes full of suburban ennui, I'll go to a TGI Fridays.

  • TimGunn says:

    Disagree. But I generally put the blame with Kate Winslet's acting.

  • Ted says:

    Hey Movieline - I rented Funny People on the strength of your very own review. And loved it! Sandler's performance was "revelatory," among many other good things you had to say about the movie. Worse, I recommended it to my friends. Movieline, you tricked me!

  • Maximum Bob says:

    Agree completely. Tedious and boring characters make for a tedious and boring film.

  • Duder NME says:

    So Nieporte should apologize for Seven Pounds because of your sensitive need for Mr. Fourth of July to make an alleged comeback, but not because of the "twist" ending where - spoiler - a blind man gains sight through Smith's donor eyes. What part of this movie screamed SCIENCE FICTION when that miracle transpired?
    I'm sure the Freshest of Princes will return to talk the quip fantastic when he's blowing up more aliens in the near future, so just take a vacation from your computer.

  • the moviegoer says:

    Better get ready to add the hateful (and not because it was intentionally hateful) Greenberg to this list. Less a movie about a seething prick in a vest, more a horror show of industry ghouls feeding off the tropes n tripe of indy filmmaking, Greenberg will stand, after the socially conditioned praise wears off, as an example of sadomasochistic filmmaking fashioned by a self-congratulating cabal of overprivledged dickheads. Only Rhys Isifans (no, not spell checking) and the eternally interesting JJ Leigh escape from this fake indy enema (yes I know she produced this diminshing returns film turd or something, but she is blameless). The acting is poor (aside from the aforementioned), the characters are mawkish losers, and the world they live in deserves to vanish. There are people in Los Angeles who don't politely back away from unconscious scum like Greenberg, they punish them. This I would watch. I could only get this crap out of my mind by imagining the sniffling female lead was secretly preparing to knife the out-of-his-depth Stiller with a letter opener she hid under her pillow in the film's predictably unpredictable final scene. It's like a Michael Hanaeke film with no insight. FILM VOMIT

  • ernie souchak says:

    The X-Files: I Want to Believe

  • bend says:

    sacrilege!

  • Camgirls says:

    woopwoop nieuwe badpakken gehaalt, toch wel leuker als je 4 maten kwijt bent :D nog steeds ziek helaaz :(

  • eCR says:

    "Remember Me" does not belong on this list. Critics missed on this one while real people got it.

Post a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s