If you’re looking for a nice family film you can actually show every demographic in your household, I would point you to August Rush. I saw it Friday with my actual family (not one I appear with on TV) and we never had to look away once in fear something untoward would pop up. It was a very sweet little movie with a nice message and you’ll recognize the singers who appear in the church scene of it from the Oscar awards this year.
What August Rush has too is a big finish. It’s one of those endings that we lead up to throughout the film with everything coming together in the final emotional climax. It feels like the writers pinned a lot of hope on this culminating moment, and it may not be entirely successful. Oddly, nothing really happens in August Rush, no one changes, really, and it may have been in service of trying to make the ending powerful.
Not to give too much away, but the movie centers on a musically-gifted child separated from his parents who hopes to bring them together — and does (and no I’m not giving anything away by telling you that!) The whole script is geared to the last moment, that one last look in the eyes of the principals, that one last explanation for why we came, and then we pretty much go to black.
It peaks in the final scene, and then it ends.
I don’t know if it was written this way, if the writers found the ending as they went, or started out thinking “wouldn’t it be cool to have it all conclude in the last minute!” from the very beginning. But it’s an interesting movie convention that I love to see attempted and don’t see often enough.
And it got me thinking that this story capper almost belongs in its own category because it offers such unique challenges.
The big finish, the one we’ve been waiting for throughout the film, and go out on once seen, is an art, and one of the great pleasures of being a movie watcher. As a screenwriter, I have never tried this, probably because it is usually more geared to dramas and thrillers.
Of the great endings like this, I can think of a couple that truly took my breath away.
#1 on my hit parade for the most shocking, abrupt — and yet still satisfying — ending ever is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The final moment in which Jimmy Stewart, and we, realize what’s happened and the fact this mystery really is over, literally stunned me. I saw this movie on VHS when the re-issue first came out and I could have sworn they cut out a part. But no. It’s just one of the great endings of all time.
Another would have to be the original Shop Around the Corner, also a Jimmy Stewart starrer, this one a romantic comedy and one Nora Ephron based You’ve Got Mail on. The original ends with the reveal that Margaret Sullavan now knows who her pen pal lover is, and that he’s staring her right in the face with the telltale flower in his lapel signifying his secret admirer status. We’ve been waiting the whole movie for this moment, to see the lovers reveal themselves to each other. And as I recall, it’s the last thing we see. Fade out.
The art of running up to and executing the big finish is one I would like to try in future scripts, and in fact the challenge of figuring out the best, most shocking, most spectacular Boom!… then Fade Out, might be a great starting point for a screenplay you write.
Meantime, what are your all-time, great final scenes that immediately go to THE END?
There’s always this one that I use to end many a phone machine message:
“Oh, and by the way, I hid the gold in the…”
But that’s really meant to make you call me back!