Script Link: Forgetting Sarah Marshall by Jason Segel

Logline: Devastated Peter takes a Hawaii vacation in order to deal with recent break-up with his TV star girlfriend, Sarah. Little does he know Sarah’s traveling to the same resort as her ex … and she’s bringing along her new boyfriend.

As I mentioned in the forum, this is one of those movies I can’t pass up when I see it’s on cable somewhere. To me it’s become a classic. The tension, the characters, the situations, all funny.

Will that influence how I judge this script?

We shall see…

1.) Can we visualize the description?

Once we get past the opening few scenes, the description wasn’t bad.

The problem I had with the beginning is that he keeps spelling out who “Peter” is, which is fine, but it feels like Jason Segel writes too much of himself into the main character.

A Few Examples

PETER BRETTER (26) watches television alone in his dark,
creepy apartment. A fake MUMMY lies in the corner. Vintage
magician posters and a giant, creepy French Clockwork Orange
poster adorn the walls. Cigarette butts, overflowing
ashtrays and bottles of liquor crowd the table and a GIANT
PLASMA TELEVISION adorns one wall. In the corner are a
guitar and keyboard.

Peter sits, smoking, watching THE ISLAND with SCARLETT
JOHANNSEN. THE COLONY IS ADDRESSED BY A MAN ON PLASMA
SCREENS THROUGHOUT THE COMPOUND

—Peter has made it so his computer is being mirrored on his GIANT PLASMA. He sits in front of his computer’s camera so that his GIANT FACE is on the tv. He is wearing a Jacket and TIE.

Huge wall of text in the beginning. Over the top details. I was almost half tempted to let it go since this was the opening description setting up both the tone and who the main character is, but…

We pull back to reveal, that he is wearing only the top half of a suit and boxers.

— Peter’s watching the Red Shoe Diaries. The part that
Duchovny narrates.

— Peter opens his fridge. It has nothing in it except for
some old orange juice.

— Peter’s on his couch drinking old orange juice from the
carton, smoking, watching an informational about a treadmill.

— Peter’s on the phone.

— Peter’s pulled the treadmill out of its box.

— It’s some time later. The treadmill is covered in
ashtrays and various junk. Peter’s on the phone.

And it just keeps coming.

Peter hangs up. He then hits the treadmill on and watches with little interest as a bunch of full ash trays, halffilled soda bottles, and papers go flying off it.

— Peter sits on his couch drinking coffee watching Talk
Soup. It goes to a commercial for “Comedy Mondays” and we
see a brief promo for “GRACE IS ACES,” starring “Emmy Nominee SARAH MARSHALL.” Peter beams….

— Peter watches the Red Shoe Diaries again. As he does so,
he bounces a ball against Duchovny’s face…

— Peter’s alarm goes off. The Cardigan’s “Lovefool” begins
playing. Peter HOPS OUT of bed.

At this point I felt like screaming, “WE GET IT!!! He’s LAZY!”

Now this was all broken up by some dialogue and other action, but too many details. It was almost like the author’s saying, “Look how trendy I am. I watched Duchovny BEFORE he was Hank Moody or Fox Mulder!” Grats bro!

We shouldn’t go into this much detail to establish our characters.

A messy apartment, and only wearing the top half of a suit? That should be enough to set up Peter as a lazy slob who enjoys goofing off. The treadmill ordering and eventual drowning in the sea of sloth was also a nice touch.

But the minor details? Get rid of them.

As I mentioned above, the rest wasn’t bad.

I even had one CLEVER part I wanted to include here, as it helped set the VERY playful tone.

Page 7:

Peter pulls away and stares at her for as long as Universal will allow.

That’s funny.

7 out of 10 points.

2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?

Yes.

Few too many large blocks of description which loses a point.

More “we see’s” than I’d like, but we all know at this point that’s just me being picky.

Also, I was VERY surprised by how few typos there were. I think I counted three. I’m glad to see the lazy part of Peter didn’t rub off on the author.

One thing I wanted to make note of is the clever, and playful way Jason Segel took us out of flashbacks.

Page 88:

INT. HOTEL ROOM – CONTINUOUS *
And we’re back…

I thought this is kind of an unorthodox way to say, “Flashback over,” and since it’s a comedy script it added to the mood being set.

9 out of 10 points.

3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?

The dialogue was okay.

Here’s where I think the script will be hurt by the movie, because the funny lines from the film were most likely improvised over several takes by talented actors.

The dialogue is set up for these long back and forth bits, that aren’t really funny, or go too far only to result in a minor reaction by the reader.

An example of just okay from page 42:

PHOTO MAN
Hi, I’m sorry to bother you, but
would you mind taking a picture of
me and my wife.
(back, to his wife)
Sounds awfully nice huh baby, “my
wife.”

PHOTO WOMAN
Sure does “my husband.” I love you
my husband.

PHOTO MAN
Love you my wife.

PETER
Sure, of course. Just there, in
line?

PHOTO MAN
Please.

PETER
I think I’ve got it now.

PHOTO MAN
(growing frustrated)
Take the picture!

PHOTO WOMAN
You know, we don’t really need a
picture of this —

PHOTO MAN
(”patiently” explaining)
You don’t know what pictures are
good until you’ve taken them all —

PHOTO MAN (CONT’D)
What’s your email. I’ll send it to
you.

PETER
That’s alright.

PHOTO MAN
C’mon. What is it.

PETER
Spookypete@aol.

PHOTO MAN
Alrighty, spookypete. Have a great
rest of your day.

Not horrible, but this was the early version of the religious newlywed couple.

This scene was alright, but it lacked the awkward tension that was in the film.

There were the roots of funny dialogue inside the script though.

Page 22:

PETER
Oh no. Oh my God.

DR. ROSENBAUM
(getting angry, dropping
the grandfatherly shtick)
Your tests came back negative! Not
that that matters since it takes at
least six weeks for any virus to
appear in the bloodstream. You’re
wasting my time and you’re driving
yourself crazy! It’s not healthy.
Also, your insurance doesn’t cover
any more blood tests for this year.

PETER
(humiliated)
I know. God, I know. I just…I’m
not used to this Doc.

DR. ROSENBAUM
Go away for a week and get your
head together.

PETER
Where would I go?

DR. ROSENBAUM
I’m not a fucking travel agent.

PETER
I can’t afford it.

DR. ROSENBAUM
(pouty, making fun of him)
I can’t afford it.
(then)
Yes, you can. Your song is
everywhere. I can’t get it out of
my fucking head.

PETER
The checks come when they come.
It’s not as much as you’d think.

DR. ROSENBAUM
Why am I discussing this with you?
Then see a psychiatrist. I don’t
care.

PETER
You know what? Last summer Sarah
and I played in this couples
basketball tournament. We lost to
Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre, but we got a
gift certificate for a free trip to
Hawaii.

DR. ROSENBAUM
I don’t give a shit.
(then)
You want a lolly?

PETER
I don’t think so —

DR. ROSENBAUM
Great. Then get the fuck out of
here.

The script did have a few moments of good, funny dialogue, but most of it was just okay.

A great example of this is how the couples date towards the end of the film is awkward, but by creating better characters in the film, the dialogued was taken to the extreme. (See page 90.)

Few Trouble Spots

These next few points are something I’d expect an amateur to do. Not someone who read a script professionally and even worked in movies.

Page 27 – The dialogue references other characters name broadcasting, “THIS IS MICHAEL! THIS IS RACHEL!” Be subtle when slipping character names in. In fact we shouldn’t even notice it.

Page 63 – Peter sings a bit of his rock ballad. Unfortunately the lyrics run too long, and since we have no music in our heads to accompany it, it’s a VERY good idea to keep original songs short, IF you include them at all.

Page 100 – There’s a “mate-fest” on this page, as William’s an English bloke, who just started using his accent right as we’re about to say goodbye. We were told he HAD an accent earlier on, but he didn’t use “mate” until three times right at this farewell scene.

5 out of 10 points.

4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?

Yes.

There were two scenes in this script, and were definitely funny situations for the big screen, but they didn’t make it.

Page 45 – Peter’s taking a shower, and uses the lotion to think of Sarah helping him with a bit of happy time. Unfortunately his mind also has William join them, and it turns awkward fast.

Page 49 – Peter attends yoga drunk, and comedy ensues. Sarah’s there and he hits her in the eye as he attempts to do a drunk handstand.

I assume these were cut to add more of the cast into the “awkward turns funny” situations, but again, it lends to the argument that this script was meant to be a film.

10 out of 10 points.

5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?

With the yoga scene above, Peter’s drunk a lot. He dodges Sarah in the script, where he follows her in the film. That’s avoiding tension.

Also, the dialogue was “too nice” when he chats with Sarah and William, so I’d argue that was a rookie mistake which doesn’t stand out in a good way.

8 out of 10 points.

6.) Does the script have a hook?

After we get through that detail laden first few pages, something brilliant happens.

Sarah breaks up with Peter on page 4 of the script.

This is perfect, since we’re thrown RIGHT into him being miserable and wanting her back which is the entire engine of the script.

No messing around.

15 out of 15 points.

7.) Is that hook effective?

Yes, but too much random sex in the script. (The film handles it as a montage which is much better.)

Peter doesn’t leave for Hawaii until page 24.

Problems:

1.) Too much talking while out with Brian.
2.) Two doctor scenes which is one too many.
3.) Hawaii voucher discussion then mishap
4.) A long discussion, and trying to sell back an engagement ring to pay for the Hawaii trip.

All of this takes up precious page space.

The random sex is good, but again, keeping it to a few key scenes or a montage is perfect. Show us it isn’t helping Peter.

The whole ring thing was silly. As was the voucher, especially since it turns out not to work.

Peter works in Hollywood as a semi successful composer. We’ll assume he has enough cash for a moderate trip to Hawaii.

10 out of 15 points.

8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?

The plot was pretty true to what happens in the film.

One of the problems was the lack of tension, but also Rachael and Peter falling for each other. It almost felt like Neo and Trinity, which was a problem in Roy’s Matrix script review.

She ignores him most of the time then suddenly falls for him, for no other reason than the author says so.

That’s with the cliff jumping scene too, but it’s not enough, since she just seems “meh” about Peter earlier in the script.

There were two HUGE problems that occurred in the ending.

Page 102.

Peter goes ALL the way with Sarah after she breaks it off with William. He doesn’t even HESITATE. And this comes RIGHT after he tells Rachael he loves her.

For us to buy into the Rachael and Peter love story, something like this can’t happen.

It lacks us having ANY sympathy for Peter when it doesn’t work out, and personally made me mad when Peter does actually end up with Rachael in the end.

Page 107.

Peter’s at the airport, I’m guessing heading home. Then he’s suddenly back in the bar getting the topless picture of Rachael out of the bathroom. Then back to the hotel after that.

The ending was a bit scattered and rushed.

5 out of 10 points.

9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?

If we’re going by box office numbers it was a success.

Estimated $30 million to make, and almost $63 million as a lifetime gross.

I’d say that’s a hefty profit.

The comedy was in there, but I have to be honest and say this script differs from the end product enough that it wouldn’t have raked in 200% of its cost.

8 out of 10 points.

Conclusion

This script was funny.

I’m glad someone had the foresight to read it and see what it could become, rather than just take it for what it was.

The addition of clever actors that fed into funny characters are what sold the film. Aldous Snow particularly. His character alone led to so many awkward and funny situations you couldn’t help but feel for Peter as you were laughing at his expense.

My biggest problem with the script was the ending. Peter drops Rachael immediately, and I can’t stress how much I didn’t like that. The film’s version of a failed blowjob was perfect, and the discussion about how that proved Peter loved Rachael was not only funny, but spot on.

Does my experience with the final product hurt this script’s score? Possibly, but as always we look forward to hearing your differing opinions in the comments below.

Total 77 out of 100.

6 COMMENTS

  1. “i got a surprise for you!”(hands free clapping).

    i really like this movie. the thing that really stood out for me about this film was how accurate it felt when dealing with a breakup. but what got me were the flashbacks. how he’d remember something that maybe relates to the relationship they had, maybe it not being as good as he once remembered it. all little things helping him get over her. it’s a great movie. though i do have to admit, i sometimes mix it up with that Ben Stiller movie The Heartbreak Kid.

  2. (I’ve neither read the full script or seen the movie)
    Hello, love your site. First time poster.

    When Peter jumps completely at the chance to sleep with Sarah again, I think that mirrors a lot of real-life behavior I’ve experienced and witnessed and helps authenticate the film as a breakup movie. When somebody hurts you the resentment seems to exist apart from a small hidden part that still longs for the person. Also, there is the motivation of spite and self-validation, “You should’ve stayed with me, see how you’ve clearly been secretly wanting this!”

    Does it serve the story? I think so- it shows how you may be compelled to return to the same river but will find it different and, if you’ve discovered a better, truer love, will be altogether unrewarding and undesirable.

    Is it too abrupt to serve its purpose properly? Does it seem ill-conceived and incorporated?
    The suddenness and lack of warning mirrors underlying weakness that the protagonist and audience may not suspect but are familiar with. In a hero’s journey, the hero returns changed and armed with new knowledge or material to share. In FSM, his return to the relationship is a great way to show how he has changed, grown and conquered his obsession. If this event occurred without precedence but at the proper point in the script, I see how it can serve it’s purpose although losing some sympathy from the audience. It makes a justifiable trade for empathy.

    • @Zack – First off, thanks for stopping by the site. Returning to Sarah does in fact “work” for the story, but the problem I had with the script is that the point he returns is also right as he’s falling for Rachael. He should be really confused about that, ESPECIALLY considering how he’s realized there’s a stark contrast. I won’t ruin the movie entirely, but in it Peter goes back to Sarah and instead of going all the way, she gives him a failed BJ. This works much better as he DOES return to her, but also relaizes Rachael’s a better choice. Plus it’s funny as hell later when other characters discuss it.

      @Walker – Agree to disagree, I liked the “and we’re back” for the type of script this is, a comedy. But then again, this is a bit low brow for you and Roy, lol.

  3. This script was surprisingly enjoyable. I opened it just to get a feel for the writing but ended up reading the whole thing.

    Hank makes several good points about various weaknesses. I agree that Peter’s abrupt return to Sarah near the end was a major flaw. Apparently this was corrected in the film, but I certainly wouldn’t know.

    I think to a certain extent the character of Rachel is a little hard to believe, the opposite of a manic pixie dream girl, she’s too perceptive and down to earth to have ended up waiting around for a dork like Peter to show up in her life.

    Finally, while I agree with Brent that the flashbacks are affecting and work well, the writer’s constant use of the phrase “And we’re back” to signal the end of those flashbacks was annoying and lazy, and somewhat undermined their impact.

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