When enough is enough

On Thursday night, I sat down with Mr. Pierce to watch a movie I’d looked forward to for months: Identity Thief.

Now, my mother, as well as a lot of my friends speak so highly of Melissa McCarthy that I have a “Like by association” emotion for her. I was told Bridesmaids was THE movie to watch. I did. And I didn’t like it. In fact, the scene most of my friends cited as the BEST scene in the movie grossed me out so completely that I’ll never go shopping after lunch again.

I chalked it up to having too many uncomfortable scenes and moved on.

Then I saw the previews for Identity Thief and thought, hey. I like Jason Bateman. I like Amanda Peet. I like Jon Favreau (I do wonder if he pronounces his name with the r and the v flipped like Brett Favre does…). The scenes I saw in the trailers were pretty damn funny.

SPOILERS AHEAD! Don’t keep reading if you wanted to see the movie and haven’t yet.

Movie Poster for Identity ThiefOh. Dear. [deity of choice].

I thought Bridesmaids had too many uncomfortable moments.

I knew I wasn’t enjoying it, so about 30 minutes into it, I started looking at it from a writer’s perspective and analyzed it. That’s when it hit me: they added too much to the storyline. As if “you have one week to bring the person who stole your identity back to Denver or you lose your job” wasn’t enough of a time crunch. Not enough suspense.

The stakes just weren’t high enough.

Nope. They needed a drug dealer to send thugs after Diana (Melissa McCarthy).

But that’s not where they stopped. They ALSO sent a bounty hunter type asshole after the pair, because Diana skipped her court date. Okay, so this one would have worked okay if they hadn’t put the drug dealers in. Except the bounty hunter guy was a TOTAL dick, and not just to Diana and Sandy (Jason Bateman)–he threatened to burn down a hair salon if the owner didn’t give him confidential client information about Diana. (Is it wrong that my first thought was: insurance money! My second was: call the cops on his ass.).

But WAIT! They also needed to up the stakes later in the movie, and cause Diana and Sandy to lose the money they had. What’s the best way to do this? Snakes! Yes, snakes in one’s pants. Oh, but they didn’t stop there, either. They had TWO snakes! One in Sandy’s pants, and the other to wrap around his neck, squeeze, then bite him. In the neck. Oh, and then Diana rips said snake away from Sandy…by the tail. Um…funny, but I didn’t think you could do that without significant, I dunno, skin being ripped off, too. And that’s if it was non-poisonous. They never specified. I would hope it was not, since he received no medical attention and was fine the next day.


Kitty’s face says it all.

So, I have a point to make in this blog post–it’s not just a review of the movie. My point is: use this movie as a learning tool. Yes, you can keep throwing things at your hero and heroine to make things more difficult, but you must learn when enough is enough. Don’t add the drug dealer thugs. Don’t add the snakes. Hell, leave out the weird cowboy fetishist, too (I didn’t mention that one earlier, but…you have to see that one for yourself). If the stakes are high enough to get you to the ending, don’t feel you need to add something else into the mix. You don’t HAVE to answer that last “What if…” when you’re plotting. Learn to say no.

If you DO raise the stakes, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it beneficial (or necessary) for character growth? Is it just for laughs? Is it because the original premise isn’t strong enough? If it’s because of this last one, the answer is obvious: rework your premise.

file0001088907384Adding charcoal briquettes to an unlit fire doesn’t do anything but add charcoal (and wastes them once they’re lit). Use the briquettes sparingly and make each one count.

Holy shit! Did I just make a metaphor? Go me. *grin*


If you’d like to see me analyze/break down a movie I think is damn near perfect, then see my blog post at Demons, Dreams, & Dragon Wings. 

What are your thoughts? Do you analyze movies to help in your writing?



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One Response to When enough is enough

  1. pamelavmason says:

    I recently read a book – older, not recent release – where conflict after conflict after conflict happened to the pair. I did the same as you and decided to analyze it instead of trying to enjoy it. A “learn from that other person’s mistakes” exercise if you will.
    I think another aspect to add to your movie (which I’m in agreement – I couldn’t enjoy it either, though I love every actor in the movie separately, just not the whole) and my book is that the protag/antagonists get together too early and too easily, and that’s the reason why the author/moviemaker had to throw one conflict scenario after another at them. It wasn’t hard for Sandy to find his nemesis, and it wasn’t too much for my romance h/h to fall into bed. So the director and author found it necessary to throw one situation after another at their couples.
    Premature climaxes take away the impact and overtire the participants (viewers/readers).