Happy Day of Independence! (Day late on the blog, our apologies.)
To all our French readers out there, thank you. And to our English ones…things worked out for the best, right?
1.) Marketability of the Idea
When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.
I’ll admit, when the Captain pitched me the idea of reviewing this script, the title gave me a different impression. It took the logline to intrigue me enough to sit down and read it.
Simple enough idea, model Jesse wants to make the big time so she moves to LA. There she meets three women who are jealous of her looks and want to steal it from her.
BUT, that all boils down to execution (and how much Nicolas Winding Refn actually contributed).
Based on the premise, it works, and adding in Mr. Refn, from Drive and Only God Forgives, and you’ve got extra incentive for a studio.
(Honestly, when The Cap’n told me who wrote it, for some reason I got it confused with Rian Johnson. Bit different body of work there, lol.)
Will the numbers support similar future ideas?
2.) Plot Stability
First and foremost, people always GUSH over Drive. I’m not one who completely agrees with its brilliance, but regardless of your corner in that fight, this was no Drive.
The idea of Jesse struggling to make it, while three women try to “devour” her vitality is the last quarter of this script.
We’re presented with the stereotypes you’d expect from a story set in the modeling industry, especially in LA, but none of the character connections are established to make it work.
Other than a random scene of Sarah sucking Jesse’s blood, which I expected to have a deeper meaning later, we don’t get to the “devouring” until page 70?
What do we get instead? Random events in the day of up and coming model Jesse.
Not quite episodic scenes, but they don’t support the overall idea the script sets out to accomplish either.
Looking at the reviews/scores for the film, I’m curious if the final product didn’t differ drastically from this script.
Most of the US is drawn to the West Coast (be it physically or emotionally), and I’m sure these characters represent real people and struggles, but outside California? Not sure we care enough for the mundane goings on, like casting calls, boring club scenes from countless other movies, chatty highway commutes, etc.
Overall my impression wasn’t great, and I wanted more of Sarah, Gigi, and Ruby slowly siphoning off Jesse’s youth and vitality, not just small trivial interactions with her until out of nowhere they shove her in a pool and eat her?
(With that main event skipped, by the way!)
I’m sure the film was shot in really cool colors, set to even cooler music, and that hipsters will fucking LOVE it, but I just didn’t get it.
Anyway, here’s the individual points…
Page 3 – Nice twist, where if we know the logline, we think Jesse is already dead, but SURPRISE! It’s a photo shoot.
Page 7 – Very early on we know something’s off with Ruby.
Page 17 – Via her settings, we learn that Jesse is new in town, and down on her luck. GREAT place for a character to be because it almost always leads to drama.
Page 20 – Constantly expecting one of these women to be lurking around the next corner, and here someone’s in Jesse’s room! Turns out it’s just a wildcat? Which again, I felt like there should have been more later on, aside from a symbolic “eating of the carcass” in a back alley.
***This is where I got the feeling we WERE NOT in good hands with the writer(s), guessing these incidents wouldn’t be connected in some grander way by the end.
Page 26 – Jesse cuts her hand on a piece of glass, and Sarah sucks it. Great!…if only it’d lead to something stranger later on. Is Sarah a vampire? A witch? A demon referenced in the title? Nope. She’s just so desperate to be pretty she’ll drink people’s blood.
Page 40 – Dean, a potential love interest, shows up and bandages Jesse’s hand. That’s cute. Intimate. But next, he’s fixing her beat up Buick? Why the fuck are we seeing this?
Page 46 – Jesse goes to have new photos done with Jack, Sarah’s love interest and a super sexy photographer. But then Ruby shows up? Even though Jesse’s already done with the photo shoot?
Page 52 – An over elaborate pet store robbery, where Ruby steals a cockatiel, for the sole reason of setting up that she may dabble in witchcraft AND possibly sacrifice animals? (Again, that’s great, if it plays a larger role later on…which it doesn’t, or at least we’re not shown that it does.)
Page 56 – And I really went “WTF?” on this part. Jesse gets done walking the runway at a fashion show, walks over to Jack, who she’s shown zero interest in thus far, pushes him against a wall, then shoves his hand into her crotch? In front of all these people? Then treats Dean like an asshole?
***Note here. If you’re trying to show how LA/modeling is turning Jesse into someone bad, we have to first understand who she is initially. We don’t. She’s extremely passive throughout most of the script.
Page 62 – Jesse leaves the seedy motel and moves to Hills House. Where the fuck is that? No clue. It’s not Ruby’s house, but she’s there, and Jesse makes herself perfectly at home. It turns out it’s the house Ruby’s been checking in on while the owners are away. Sure she’s mentioned it a time or two, but never by name, and it always sounded like a cover for some of Ruby’s mischief.
Page 66 – Jesse sees a pool from an upstairs window, and decides to swim. Long drawn out undressing and bikini shots as she approaches the diving board and jumps in? Oh wait there’s no water. Of course it can be filmed so WE don’t see directly into the pool, but really Jesse didn’t notice that? Really?!
Page 70 – Sarah, Ruby, and Gigi chase Jesse into the backyard and push her into the pool where she breaks her leg. What happens after that? CUT TO the three of them showering off Jesse’s blood together.
***What kind of a Cinemax movie is this supposed to be?
Page 75 – Girls argue over what they just did, but the ONE thing we actually showed up to see was just yadda yadda’ed over. (Sorry, you do see Sarah eat Jesse’s eye out of Gigi’s vomit.)
Page 91 – We finally meet Gigi’s plastic surgeon, and she starts self mutilating in his office. Grief over what she did to Jesse, maybe, but again was Jesse’s ghost or something somehow behind it? So many scenes just feel out of place.
Ending – Stupid. Apparently eating Jesse did work, because Sarah got her eyes. How does this work? Because….LA! Movies!
3.) Quality of Characters
Sarah saw Jesse as a rival. For Jack. For jobs. Play that up. Make it lead to Jesse’s demise.
Then do the same with the other two girls.
In the version of the script being reviewed, the three had ZERO motivation for wanting to “devour” Jesse other than she was young and pretty.
Really? She’s THE ONLY young and pretty model in LA? Was this something they’ve been doing on a consistent basis? Was this their first time?
Was Jesse even a virgin? (She says she’s not.) Was that even important?
This story needed more twists via the connections too, like maybe they’re after Jesse’s vitality the whole time, but Jesse’s made some deal that devours them, giving her the youth everyone notices and covets.
I don’t know. Maybe that’s a plot argument.
All I know is Jesse really didn’t make sense to me, and there was zero sympathy on my end for her as the main character.
Most of the time she mumbled her way through each scene, like she was doped out of her mind, sometimes not even remembering people she just met.
Another minor point, considering the larger issues, is the over description in characters intros.
They belong to JACK,
37, leaning casually against a pillar in a shadowed corner of
the room. He is striking, fashionable, and holds himself
with unintentional arrogance.
One example, but Ruby, Jesse, etc. all have these arbitrary adjectives. If one or more is crucial, list it, otherwise let them develop naturally as the story progresses.
Why did my namesake in this story have to be such a dirtbag?
4.) Dialogue and Description
Description was fine, considering.
Dialogue wasn’t anything special, ranging from a variety of issues.
I’m Ruby, by the way.
Jesse. You told me earlier.
You’re a little bit deer-in-theheadlights.
I just moved here. Six weeks ago.
Please don’t be from New York.
Last thing we need is another
pretty bitch without a soul.
I’m from Ridgecrest.
Near Death Valley.
Spooky. What’s in Death Valley?
Nothing worth sticking around for.
Hi, I really don’t give a shit and the facts of this exchange could be expressed in two or three sentences.
You did great today. By the way.
At the shoot.
He looks down, hands in pockets, and shifts nervously.
watches him carefully, amused.
Would you say… I really killed
He looks up, surprised. She smiles, coy.
I can do worse.
Why did they build a gate around
I don’t know. Why?
Because people were dying to get
You’re not dreaming. That shit was actually in there.
Out of left field.
What were you doing there?
I thought you invited me.
I realize that.
That’s my job, Dean.
My job. You have no idea how much
you’ve fucked things up.
Let me talk to them.
It’s the least I can do.
Stop trying to be the nice guy.
Stop fixing things. Sometimes
people don’t want to be saved.
I’m just trying to help.
I don’t want your help.
Where is this all coming from? He did fix your car, and didn’t you invite him to your show via the earlier phone call? WTF is going on?
Over selling it.
And it isn’t just being beautiful.
It’s more than that. It’s power.
You asked me what I believe in?
I believe in me. Men look at me.
Women look at me. Everyone either
wants me or wants to be me. And
you know what? I love it.
Your actress better be pretty good looking to pull this off, otherwise you’ll end up with my favorite unintentionally funny line in a movie.
(Couldn’t find a clip.)
Where Reese Witherspoon, as Elle in Legally Blonde, mentions people only ever expected her to become a Victoria Secret model. Now, Miss Witherspoon is in NO WAY unattractive, but really? Looks aside, are you even tall enough?
I don’t consider myself a hideous beast, but if I were in a movie having a line about “being George Clooney’s son” in reference to how good looking I am, I’d make them change it. Unless it was obviously a joke.
She was my friend.
Was she, Ruby? She was a girl you met a few days earlier and just ate. Not sure that makes you besties.
This train wreck was only 95 pages, thank goodness.
6.) What I liked…
That I just now figured out that the “neon demon” is in fact LA, and what it did to these women.
(If only that were enough of a twist to save the rest!)
7.) What needs work…
Going back and tying shit together, so a reader/viewer isn’t constantly asking themselves, “Why is this important to the story?”
Rating: Read it if you’re a Refn fan, I guess.
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