Friday, October 5, 2012

Outlines, part 2: Pacing & Deathproof

Apparently, I do requests.  After discussion, here's what a brief analysis (and accidental movie review) of the plot of Taratino's 'Deathproof'.  There’s two versions, as it turns out, and I accidentally watched the longer one.  My mistake, as you shall see.

(Big Fat Spoiler Alert)
DEATHPROOF - Part ONE (Alabama)

I started this as one outline, then decided it fit better at two, distinct stories.  The lesson for me here isn’t crafting the perfect Plot Point I when I write, but a deeper, instinctual understanding of what pacing does to my story’s content.  If I spend 15 minutes on the lap dance, I give it greater weight and meaning than if I only spend 5.  Does it deserve that amount of time?  In this case, probably not.

1-30:  Some basic introduction to our three female characters, including the fact that one's sort of famous, that they're all hot.  Some talk about a new boyfriend, some talk about kissing.  We actually meet him briefly, and more of the same.  We also meet Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russel) and he's a bit creepy and a bit charming.  He offers Rose McGowan's character (Pam) a ride home.  We get the setup for the lapdance joke for the three pretty girls, and the actual lap dance itself.  (For me, this part of the plot and character setup is a big fat failure.  There's a lot of Quenten-esqu dialog, but it doesn't go much of anywhere.  We get a little of Mike's washed-up-ness, and how he's part of era long gone.  We get various levels of hip, snark and sluttiness from the ladies, but no real character.
30-35 (-ish):  They explain the poem/lap dance joke to Butterfly/Arlene.  I had some trouble pinning any one scene as Plot Point I.  Mostly because I didn’t CARE.  This bit DRAGS.  There's also a lot of setting/film execution gold in here: old film posters, exploitation era hair and music, some amazing film grittiness and spots and bad cuts to give you that old B-movie feel...even the above commentary on a stunt-man's profession going away becomes very meta with the nature of this film and Zoe's character later on, but none of that stopped me from clawing desperately for the fast-forward button.  You could make some argument for a building of tension here, but mostly it's just freakin' SLOW.  42 minutes is a long time to be waiting for *some* kind of event. 
Digression #17: I’m not implying you can’t ever stretch, break or meld this model – take, for example, the brilliant extra-long, super-dance-remix extended, white-knuckle, multilayered ACT III of Inception.  In Deathproof, though, I don’t think there’s enough content or story to justify this stretch.  Or, if you restructure it differently, enough content to serve the function of setting up the climax, since really the entire first half is setup of for the second half.  This first half would never hold up on its own, but its structured like it would.
35-42:  We intro Mike, and Pam, who accepts a ride from him.  Mike is charming and creepy, and shames Butterfly into giving him the lap dance.
42-48:  Pam gets into Mike’s car.  She finds that she’s trapped, and he crashes into stuff, killing her.  Poor Rose!  (There’s also more meta stuff here, as this is really 2 stories placed back-to-back.  (And originally paired with another film, Planet Terror.)  Digression #84: the fuzzy and arbitrary nature of these plot point assignments means you could easily assign something earlier in the film (Arrival at bar, Rose needs a ride, lap dance) at Plot Point I/end of ACT I, making the numbers even out a bit, but that still wouldn’t make those 42 minutes go any faster. 
49-51:  Climax - The car crash that kills our 3 ladies (and some random lady number 4 who jumped into the story while I was fast-forwarding.)  Point to Taratino for gruesomeness.  I originally tagged Pam’s death above as PPI, but changed my mind and hung it here.  I’m pinning this as PPI, setting up the dangers of – and moving us into -  ACT II.  Normally, this would come about 30 minutes in.  Normally, this would be the final scene of ACT I, but it doesn’t feel like it, does it? 
52-56:  Denouement.  Hospital, cop rehash.  All of which is really set-up for…

DEATHPROOF - Part TWO  (Tennessee)
56 - 112:  14 months later, we find Mike skulking around and meet a new set of ladies for him to stalk.  This is where the film starts to work for me.  After the gruesome death from just before, we have an instant concern for these ladies.  They, too, are talking about kissing when we first meet them, just in case we missed their connection to the other three hot ladies from before.  Also, one of them is kind of famous, like Jungle Julie from Act I. 
1:05-1:11:  Plot Point I - Mike plays the a similar creepy flirtation with them, which doesn’t go very far.  But he’s set his sights on these three.
1:12-1:27:  Intro Zoe and the Dodge Challenger.  We leave behind our new famous lady.  (Lee, I think.)  There’s no real Midpoint here, unless you count Kim’s resistance to doing stunt, which Zoe eventually overcomes.  However, with Kim’s driving, Zoe’s stunt work, you get at least the feeling that these ladies have a bit more substance to them.  Not a lot, because that’s not really Tarantino’s priority, but a little.
1:28:  They start the car stunt Ship’s Mast.  Reckless driving with Zoe on the hood.  Great fun.
1:32:  Mike shows up for his next kill.
1:33-1:37:  Mike makes his play, but it’s not as neatly set-up, and Kim has some driving skill.  Zoe (and the rest) come out alive.
1:38:  Mike stops, acting like it’s all a big joke.  (How does that make any sense?)  Kim shoot him in the arm.  Now it’s the ladies chasing Mike, and it’s more than he bargained for.
1:39-1:49:  CLIMAX - The ladies chase Mike, drive him off the side of the road, and proceed to beat the crap out of him.  This our climax not only for his attack on Zoe, but on his murder of the four women in the previous portion. 

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