Hollywood moved a little slower this month, as is to be expected for the holiday season. MGM picked up Matthew Orton’s untitled historical thriller spec about Mossad agents trying to capture Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Chuck Hayward’s sorority dramedy Ain’t No Half Steppin found a home at Broad Green Pictures. The story follows a black sorority girl who agrees to teach black Greek stepping to stereotypical white sorority girls who are about to lose their charter. Good Universe is moving forward with Jessie Andrews’ dramedy script Empress of Serenity about a lawyer forced to take a cruise to bond with his estranged father. Bill Hader to star, Andrews to also direct. Max Landis’ Deeper is moving forward at Phantom Four Films and Addictive Pictures. The psychological thriller focuses on a disgraced astronaut on a mission to reach the bottom of an oceanic trench and the mysterious forces he encounters. Finally, Casey Affleck will produce and direct Damien Ober’s Far Bright Star, based on the novel by Robert Olmstead.
Other script sales include:
– Christopher McQuarrie has signed on to write/direct the sequel to his Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.
– Paramount has tapped William Monahan to write an Evel Knievel biopic, based on the book by Sheldon Saltman.
– DreamWorks Animation has picked up Edgar Wright and David Williams’ untitled family comedy/fantasy. Wright to direct.
– Jon Spaihts and Eric Heisserer have signed on to reboot Van Helsing for Universal.
– DreamWorks optioned T.J. Miller and M. Miller Davis’ action/comedy pitch Ex-Criminals. Miller to possibly star.
The Library – Produced Scripts
One of the best dramas last year was also one of the funniest comedies. However, the emotional aspects only worked because the movie is so funny.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, adapted by Jesse Andrews from his own book and directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year, but the film came and went unnoticed when it was released. And it's not hard to see why: It's got all the quirk of Little Miss Sunshine, but one of its principle characters is a 17-year-old girl dying of leukemia, Rachel. On top of that, the main character Greg (he's the "me" in the title) only hangs out with her because his mom's making him. So yeah.
In a way, you could describe Me and Earl as the anti–Fault in Our Stars. While the latter exists for the sole purpose of manipulating its audience into crying (and, for the most part, works), Me and Earl instead wants to manipulate its characters. Greg is "terminally awkward" with "a face like a groundhog" and as selfish as any other teen. In fact, it takes him until the end of the film to realize it's Rachel's story, not his.
It helps that Greg is a funny character with a very distinct voice. Some of the lesser screenwriting gurus have been on a vendetta against voice-over for a while now, but like any other stylistic device, good voice-over is still good. It doesn't just explain what we're seeing—the movie would work fine without it. What makes Greg's narration stand out is it extends from his personality and is unique to his quirky, funny, awkward voice.
But beneath all the quirk and clever witticisms, Me and Earl is still a smart script. Nearly every joke in it works, so when it shifts gears to drama, the emotions hit like a ton of bricks. That isn't an original tool, but it is tried and true: Preceding a dramatic moment with comedy helps that moment really land. Add in Gomez-Rejon's smart directorial flourishes (developed on American Horror Story and his directorial debut, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) and Korean cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung's (Oldboy) beautiful images, and you've got a beautiful film with an excellent story.
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