Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wedding Pact

Occasionally I'll see a movie and feel disappointed and/or unsatisfied afterwards. Then I'll ask myself why. And this is what happens.

Wedding Pact is a romantic comedy. And I've blogged about romantic comedies before here.

The set-up is pretty cool. A guy and girl find they've reached the end of four years of college, having known and liked one another, but never actually dated. At a graduation party she points this out and asks him that if they still aren't married after 10 years, why don't they marry.

I really, really loved the premise, but it hides a terrible secret the casual viewer might not catch.

And so as you'd expect 10 years elapse and they're both single. He learns of this and embarks on a road trip to find the girl and remind her of the promise to marry.

We then learn that he has carried a torch for this girl since he first met her on the first day of college. In any story you should see character development. In this story the character arc should be obvious. Something is lacking in this guy's character that prevents him from successfully romancing someone, anyone. And since the girl never marries either, there's something in her character that should similarly sabotage her romantic success.

Whoever wrote this movie never got around to thinking these thoughts. As a result, it sort of stumbles around and ultimately uses a deus ex machina (in the form of a biker gangster) to force a happily ever after.

So, gentle reader, let's suppose you've been called in to script-doctor this turkey. Suppose you agree that the premise is sound. Now, here's an assignment for the reader: devise some creative solution to explain why 14 years elapse, they like each other, he doesn't marry someone else, she doesn't marry someone else, but they don't marry each other.

The cool thing about answering this problem is that it can drive the plot into some really interesting (as in fresh and original) ground. Obvious solutions: he's caring for a sick aunt or she's obsessed with her career should be avoided b/c they are so UNORIGINAL.

I played this game with my wife and she suggested that his older sister and her husband died right after graduation leaving him to care for his twin 8 year old nieces who 10 years later grow up and gone to college. My suggestion to her was that he's afflicted with some kind of narcolepsy so that every time he is stressed he falls asleep. And every time he's about to tell a girl he loves her he nods off, whereupon she breaks up with him.

We could fuse these two ideas by giving her the nieces to take care of. Then the nieces and the narcolepsy can create complications in the second act. Particularly, if the nieces believe some false report about the guy. Meanwhile, he's had a decade to understand his narcolepsy handicap and to devise a clever technological solution (involving a dead-man's switch and a videotaped explanation)--that will malfunction to create a Dark Moment. But the nieces feel bad for their earlier interference and they save the day somehow.

Sadly, the movie Wedding Pact did nothing even close to this. He starts out the movie as a loser, which creates initial sympathy, but he never really outgrows being a loser. He never asserts himself, but passively accepts the help of the deus ex machina character.

I think it is safe to assume that you should expect each romantic comedy to start with two potential lovers who each have some character flaw that they have to overcome in order to find love. Then it is the job of the storyteller to put them in situations where they each identify and fix the flaw. Unless you're writing a tragedy...

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