You, Me and Dupree… and Act Three
While taking a break this weekend from the strenuosity of an amazingly busy work schedule (sorry to all whom I have not emailed), I caught You, Me and Dupree at the Sag Harbor Multiplex. Cute movie, boosted (IMO) by the last five minutes, which made me leave the theater at least happy.
I want to pose a question to you one and all, and to do so, bear with me, a little plot re-hash must be done here. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and want to, warning: spoilers ahead.
The story basically has Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson as newlyweds invaded by the ne’er-do-well buddy of Matt: the titular Dupree (Owen Wilson).
And, meeting the demands of the logline, and satisfying the “promise of the premise”… conflict builds. Owen becomes the guest who wouldn’t leave, causing jealousy for Matt, who is also in a battle with Kate’s overprotective father (Michael Douglas) whom Matt also works for.
Well, at the end of Act Two: All is way lost. Over dinner, having imagined Owen has the hots for Kate, and whom even Michael seems to prefer, Matt attacks his pal, throttling him and embarrassing all. The fight breaks up Matt and Kate, Matt walks out, and Michael tells Kate, “I told ya so.”
So here’s Act Three:
Matt is depressed that he lost his temper, and goes missing.
Being the active co-protaganist, Owen rounds up a group of neighborhood kids to go looking for Matt. It’s actually a montage, ladies and gentlemen: Owen pases out “Have You Seen Matt?” posters. And only a stroke of luck lets Owen find Matt — living in a bar the two buddies used to frequent.
The two hatch a plot. They must 1. Get Matt into the office buiding Michael owns and confront his father-in-law (the classic “storming of the castle” that so many Act Threes comprise) and 2. To do so, Owen must run interference with a funny Security Guard, who’s been set up throughout, and give his buddy Matt the chance to give Michael a piece of what’s left of his mind. And that’s basically what unfolds. Owen leads the Security Guard on a chase around the building; Matt has his showdown with Michael. In the end, both Matt’s friendship with Owen and marriage to Kate are resolved.
So, here’s the $21 million* question: Is this good screenwriting?
We know a showdown must take place in the always tough Act 3. We know the buddies must reunite and work together to solve the problem. But is this the best way to do it? Does “storming the castle” have to be the solution? Is it the best solution available? Or can you think of a better one?
I have my own opinion, but… as always… I welcome yours. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not (better if you have), please chime in!
*The actual opening take for Dupree was: $21,525,560
- Gary Dragan Milin
You, Me, Your Dad and Dupree.
I just got back from seeing this, and as much as I enjoyed Michael Douglas’ performance, I think the movie would’ve been a lot better overall if he weren’t in it.
The focus should have stayed exclusively on the three main characters. Their relationships to each other should have been explored in greater detail. We only got a few snippets of this. And we should have gotten more. A lot more. That’s what the story should have been about. Carl’s not really in touch with his emotions. But Dupree is. This should’ve been explored more. The scene were Dupree tells Molly how to get through to the “real Carl” was great. There should have been more moments like this in the story.
Carl thinks that Dupree ruined his marriage. But Carl’s marriage was in trouble before Dupree even showed up. The real problem is Carl being out of touch with his emotions. This should have been the spine of the story instead of all that stuff with his boss.
Now, as for the third act, I think the writer really dropped the ball here. And part of the problem stems from the fact that the father-in-law character was stuck into a story where he didn’t belong.
In my humble opinion, this is what the third act should have looked like:
The three main characters are sitting at the dinner table. Carl is at the end of his slow burn. And something Dupree says sets him off. Carl launches himself across the table and attacks Dupree. Molly breaks it up. But Dupree can take a hint. He takes off promising never to return. Molly is furious with Carl and she leaves as well, telling him that she doesn’t want to be married to someone like him.
Left all by himself in the house, Carl feels absolutely miserable. He’s at his lowest point. All is lost. But then he remembers that something Dupree once told him and he finally realizes the error of his ways. He reaches deep down inside himself and finds the strength to try and make everything right again.
Carl goes all over town looking for Dupree, desperate to find his best friend. He thinks the worst. Did Dupree jump off a bridge? Or join the Peace Corps? Or simply leave town never to return? Finally, Carl gets a flash of inspiration and goes back to the bar where Dupree used to live. And there he finds his old pal. Carl appologizes for attacking Dupree and for even thinking that he was hitting on his wife. Carl explains that he acted in this manner because he’s having a hard time connecting with his emotions. Dupree also apologizes for all the things he did wrong. And then they try to come up with a plan to get Carl and Molly back together again.
Dupree comes up with a wild and crazy plan. And at first Carl doesn’t want to do it. But Dupree convinces Carl to trust him. Dupree doesn’t know much. But he knows people. So Carl finally puts his life in Dupree’s hands, and the two best friends set about carrying out this wild and wacky plan.
And guess what? It works. Molly takes Carl back and their marriage promises to be better than ever before. Carl and Dupree’s friendship is stronger than ever. And wouldn’t it have been nice if somehow in the middle of all of this, Dupree winds up with that librarian who’s face we never got to see?
Anyway, that’s how I would’ve done it. Still, I did enjoy this movie a lot more than The Break Up.
But it’s nowhere in the same league as last year’s The Wedding Crashers, or 40-Year Old Virgin.
But it was nice to see Seth Rogen again.
There was enough stuff going on between the three main characters to fill up a movie. By adding the father-in-law into the mix, . This seriously diluted the story.
- Del Seagrove
I think if Kate has more to do that it ups the ‘romantic comedy’ blood count. She starts mooning over little things and enlists Owen to help get Matt back, screw Dad.
Dad meanwhile ups his bad guy cred. Dad becomes a great sucking sound for act three. Has P.I.s track Matt down, offer him a bankroll, his job back, some such.
Matt refuses, Dad frames him, plants stories about him, spindle folds and mutilates him.
Kate finds Matt, looks him in the face and forgives him. Anybody in their right mind would throttle Owen. Owen agrees.
At his lowest ebb, when Dad is gloating, Matt asks for her hand in marriage.
Dad is astonished by Matt’s balls but still says no.
Kate has been waiting for someone to stand up to Dad and doesn’t care. Kate lays down the law to Owen. the end.
Matt refuses and Dad starts
- Sarah Beach
Judging just on Blake’s description, I’d have to go along with the above comments to a degree.
Because, first off, if the story is about the newlyweds, why is the third act about the hero and his father-in-law? I mean, huh? It sounds too much like the writer got hooked on the character of the father-in-law (or the actor) and subverted the story to endulge that love.
No, no, no, no, no.
The relationship between the hero and the FIL is not the principal conflict. Once the hero proves his worth by winning back his wife, the conflict with the FIL would be resolved. It’s the conflict with the wife that would require character growth/change from the hero. That’s what the third act should have been about.
You, Me, and … Cousin Dupree? Has anybody read about this whole Steely Dan fake letter to Luke Wilson, complaining that Owen’s latest movie rips off their song. I know as a beginning writer I get inspiration for ideas from random places, but to base a movie off a song which you don’t own the rights to seems awfully suspicious. Any recommendations on when coming up with titles, story lines, on how you can make sure you aren’t on the borderline of “borrowing” others ideas?
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The problem with the film? Two words: “active co-protagonist.” Better to make your protagonist more active, rather than dilute his role by elevating a minor character.
The movie’s protagonist–the titular “Me”–must be either Matt or Kate; ladies first, so we’ll make it Kate. The All Is Lost moment should have Kate driving Owen away for good, but also driving Matt away; now Kate’s got the house all to herself, and couldn’t be more miserable.
In the Dark Night of the Soul, Michael then tells Kate (inadvertently, most likely) exactly how to win Matt back–and it involves finding Owen first. Being a truly active protagonist, she hunts down Owen rather than vice-versa.
Together they storm the castle so that Kate can ultimately confront Matt alone, and win him back solo in the Finale. This focuses the story more on Kate and Matt as protagonist and antagonist, and doesn’t distract us with the two comic foils, Owen and Michael.
The Final Image should be Owen toasting the reunited couple–mirroring the wedding toast that should’ve been the Opening Image–and then retiring to a new Fonzie-apartment over the garage.
If only my own scripts were so easy to improve.
P.S.: Of course, you could make Dupree the protagonist, but then you’d have to change the title to something like “The Third Wheel.”