I watched a foreign film last night titled The Square. It is up for an Oscar for best foreign film, and although lately the foreign films seem to leave me wondering why I bothered to watch them, I still wanted to see why this one was nominated.
The movie blew my mind. I could not stop thinking about it, and just now, when I read a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, I realized why. He said, “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” The Square fits that description perfectly. A good-hearted guy who is the curator of an art gallery gets embroiled in a series of incidents that become sad, funny, scary, and sometimes ridiculous, yet it’s all believable. The film mocks art at times yet mimics it at others. I can’t recommend it more highly without giving away more. Even if I told you the whole plot, you wouldn’t believe it anyway.
When I see a good movie, I have to respect the writer, the director, the actors, and the producers. When I watch a bad film, I blame the writer. Actors can’t make a good movie from bad dialogue, a principle demonstrated clearly in another film I watched this week, Baby Driver. The absurd dialogue in Baby Driver made me wonder how Kevin Spacey kept a straight face while delivering it. I can only imagine him bursting into laughter time and again, with the frustrated director yelling, “Cut!” The puns, the alliteration, and the other literary ploys that writers use might be fine in the written form, but people do not speak that way. My jaws clenched when I listened to the unrealistic dialogue. Okay, the film is intended to be an action film set to music, but even action films need good dialogue. Baby Driver gets my vote for worst writing.
On the other hand, The Big Sick, a movie for which I had low expectations, thrilled me to the bone. In it a stand-up comic born in Pakistan falls for an American woman, but their future is anything but rosy. The film was a joy from beginning to end and had all the elements an audience could love. It had comedy, romance, drama, and redemption. Written well, all the dialogue comes off as natural, as it should, because it is based on a true story. It’s no surprise that the movie has been nominated for best original screenplay. Kumail Nanjiani, who lived the experience, wrote the screenplay with· Emily V. Gordon. I highly recommend The Big Sick.
Have you watched a movie with good writing lately? Tell me about it.