Don’t (Always) Blame The Script
The “Bitter Script Reader” blogger expressed a fear regarding the 2011 film Scream 4 that I also share: that they will kill Sydney to start a new trilogy with a new cast. (It would also entail killing Gail and Dewey, perhaps as early as the opening scene, if the previous trilogy’s rules still apply.)
But her post linked to a previous one, that I found compelling for a different reason.
Now, sometimes the actors will make this harder for you. I remember loving Scream’s dialogue, but feeling that some of Williamson’s dialogue in early Dawson’s Creek sounded rather clunky. Revisiting Scream post-Dawson’s actually left me feeling that there wasn’t THAT much difference in the dialogue, stylistically. If you listen to some of the lines in Scream, you can clearly pick up on cadences and rhythms that turn up on the TV series. So why does Dawson’s sound more forced? To be blunt, the actors seem a lot less comfortable with it – especially early on. Neve Campbell and company took Williamson’s words and were able to deliver them organically. In contrast, James Van Der Beek and Katie Holmes appeared to have memorized their dialogue phonetically at times.
I’ll take their word for it regarding Dawson Creek’s actors, but it raises a valid point. When a writer has dialogue to write, we’re told to make it “organic” and “memorable”, “distinct” for each character. It’s a really tough task. But some of the better writers are consistent in that talent. If Williamson’s dialogue on Scream was good, it stands to reason that his dialogue for Dawson Creek (involving a similarly-aged cast) would be equally good. But as the bitter script reader points out, acting plays a significant role in our perception of the writing. So does directing, editing, sound-mixing, production, the whole shebang.
That’s why movie-adaptations of plays (Shakespeare’s, for example) can be a bit of a hit or miss, even when its story and in many cases even its writing is copied over from the original.
A bad actor, or an actor with little time to prepare, can read the same lines of dialogue as a terrific one and our perception of the writing could change, most especially if a scene is filled with less-than-stellar actors.
You can blame the script for a lot of things – the premise, the story arc, most of the pacing, and even the dialogue. But you have to share the blame for a bad movie with everyone involved – bad acting can ruin dialogue, bad directing and editing can ruin pacing and tone, etc.
That’s why a growing number of blogs are starting up as critiques of the scripts themselves (or even comparing the movie with an earlier draft of the script). That approach, while not readily popular among the general public, would be a more honest assessment of the script/writing itself.
I know, I know. There are bad writers out there (and I may be one of them!). And a lot of movies in Hollywood are noticeably formulaic, especially when involving a recognizable brand/franchise, in part because of the restraints placed on the writer by the studio and “industry standards for storytelling”. But you shouldn’t blame the script. It’s not (always) at fault.