Focus-script-analysisAn excerpt from my script analysis for Focus which will be available 03/02/15:

4.) Dialogue and Description

First up, the dialogue. As you might discern from the title, I wasn’t a fan.

I was reminded of the banter in Hitch between Smith and Eva Mendes, that was playful, but pushed right to the edge before becoming a chore to watch/read.

Where Hitch stopped, Focus didn’t.

Page 45:

NICKY
There she is- I wanted to ask you
something…

JESS
Yeah me too. No big cons? I
thought you were all big time.

NICKY
No big cons. It’s a volume
business. Not sexy, I know- but
it’s profitable, it’s safe and it
works. Hell, we may even offer
health care next year.

JESS
Kind of a gyp.

Nicky smiles at her forwardness.

NICKY
Maybe on the next one, George Raft.
But I just made you fifty K where’s
the gratitude?

JESS
I’m an ingrate, I admit it. But I’m
ambitious – most people find it
charming.

NICKY
Very charming. But if I could steer
the conversation back to my opening
line. You feel like going to the
game tomorrow?

JESS
Super Bowl? Really? Like, just us?

Nicky offers an affirmative shrug.

JESS (CONT’D)
Yeah. That’d be great.

NICKY
Good. Meet you there.

JESS
(sincere)
But, um, seriously- I want to thank
you for bringing me in on this.
Thanks for trusting me.

She extends her hand. He shakes.

NICKY
No offense, but I never trusted
you.

JESS
None taken. I assume you feel that
way about everybody.

NICKY
I had a dog once, but yeah.

JESS
Poor wounded bird lining his nest
with hundred dollar bills…

NICKY
It’s a sob story, I admit it. I
feel sorry for myself.

JESS
Genius must be such a burden.

NICKY
Crushing.

Jess smiles. Nicky too. A long pause. A kiss moment? Again
Nicky squelches it coolly.

JESS
So, I’ll see you tomorrow.

She walks off, Nicky reaches into his breast pocket.

NICKY
Wait- I forgot to give you your
ticket…

JESS
No you didn’t.

She waves a SUPER BOWL TICKET over her shoulder as she exits
and he puts two and two together. He smirks, loving it,
dwelling on her exit.

What the HELL was that? They’re flirting, we get it, but this should read more “cool” and less “junior high dance.”

Page 100:

NICKY
Looks nice.

Jess accepts the compliment but changes the subject.

JESS
Farhad said you didn’t work for a
long time…

NICKY
Couple years, yeah. Didn’t feel
right. Actually started feeling bad
about doing it… which is not
something you want in a
professional con artist. Empathy, a
heart… what a disaster.

JESS
Yeah. God forbid.

NICKY
Seriously. Not so much about the
rich guys. But I think about some
of the ones when I was little. My
dad and I would run this scheme at
these churches. I’d speak in
tongues and he’d translate for a
donation. What happened to those
people? Or when I was 15, I ran a
credit card scam on this video
store in Pennsylvania- back when
they had the carbon paper slips? I
drove back there last year and it’s
not there. Video store was gone.

JESS
Don’t you think that was online
streaming? Or Netflix or the big
red thing at the grocery stores?

NICKY
What is that thing?

JESS
Don’t tell me you blame yourself
for Borders Books too.

NICKY
No. That was the Kindle.

JESS
Wow you really have become a wuss.

NICKY
It was a crisis of faith.

JESS
All brought on by sleeping with me?

NICKY
RedBox! That’s the thing at the
grocery store.

JESS
Did you just say that? Was that a
naughty inference?

NICKY
I think so.

JESS
Maybe you’re not such a wuss.

Smiles. Then–

NICKY
I even reached out to my dad.
Hadn’t seen him in years. We
buried a lot of our crap. Asked him
if he’d ever gone straight. He was
like, “I go straight every time I’m
on parole.” He told me that you
can’t live this life and then not
live it. ‘Be a man and move on…’

JESS
And?

NICKY
I’m working on it.

Jess thinks a moment, reflecting.

JESS
You said this was no way to live.
That I’d never be able to trust
anyone. I didn’t believe you then,
but I do now. I cut myself off.

NICKY
All brought on by sleeping with me?

JESS
I was headed that way anyway. It
wasn’t that big of a deal.
NICKY
Was that a dig?

JESS
Just a little one.

NICKY
Clever.

JESS
Why’d you go to all this trouble
Nicky. Absolution? Forgiveness?
Piece of mind? What?

NICKY
I can convince anyone of anything.
One time I convinced a man that an
empty warehouse with a single chair
in it was the federal reserve. So
I’m good. A good liar.

JESS
Yeah. You’re the best.

NICKY
But what I wanted to do was tell
you the truth. To tell you the
truth and to look into your eyes
and…
(inhales)
I just need for you to believe me.

They stare at one another. Nicky awaits her answer.

JESS
I want to believe you Nicky. I
really do.

Now, a few decent jokes in there, but they’re LOST in all the other mundane droning. Again, GET TO THE POINT!

Those were the two longest offenders, but anytime Nicky and Jess swapped each others’ spit verbally I felt like…hmmm, if only there was a part of the script that described my frustration…

Page 124:

BANG! Owens SHOOTS NICKY IN THE CHEST, flipping him backward
in his chair.

GARRIGA
What the fuck are you doing?!

Jess continues to SCREAM.

OWENS
I couldn’t take another fucking
word.

Cheers, Owens.

Now the small stuff:

A.) Don’t start sentences with Well, Then, Umm, etc.
B.) Don’t end more than two segments with ellipses (…).

Moving to the description.

It wasn’t bad, especially when compared to the “trying too hard” dialogue.

Two of my favorite bits:

Page 22 – It’s a slick, flirtatious ballet and she’s in the middle of it.

Page 42 – This ballet continues, as does Nicky’s fascination with her.

The one suggestion I’d make one the second example is to up the game a bit, and use a dance that’s sexier and/or more complex than a ballet. This way you can eliminate the two sentences that follow this good one.

Want the full version? Follow this link to the Focus script review.

And be sure to check out our Notes Service, where I give my detailed thoughts and suggestions on your script.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The first chunk totally stalls out the forward propulsion – if there ever was any. Plus, setting up a scene in order to shuck and jive, and hope that pass for cool, daddio, metro humor, is to wast a viewers time. And remember, show, don’t tell (anecdote about speaking in tongues). Doubt any of this made it to a schooting script.

  2. Length? Absolutely, too long.
    Ellipses and well/then/um? Shouldn’t be overdone but this is just how people talk. If it’s employed well, it’s fine.

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