Sample Coverage

Sample Coverage 1
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Title: Sample Notes 1 ('Analysis' Coverage)
Author: [left blank]
Form / pages: Screenplay, 116 pp.
Coverage date: 10/03/2003
Reader: [left blank]
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Circa: Medieval
COMMENTS:

There's Something About Mary meets A Knight's Tale… At heart it's a fairly standard story about a man trying to win back his woman, but in the end he realizes she's not the woman for him after all. A different setting might have added to the originality, but as it is the medieval setting is more or less familiar, and so we expect certain things to happen. What's a medieval movie without a tournament, for instance? And of course there's an evil prince and a beautiful princess for the hero to fall in love with. That said, the mixture of modern and medieval is an interesting concept, although, coming on the heels of A Knight's Tale, it feels less innovative than it might have. It has potential, but the writer needs to delve deeper and find some fresh twists.

Marvin comes across as a passive character who rarely does anything on his own. Virtually everything he does is suggested by someone else. Even the plan to seduce the princess originates with his friend Ricardo. Things tend to happen to him; he never takes control of events. Throughout his time at the palace, he stumbles from one situation into another, reacting to the actions or initiatives of others. The need to make a toast drops on his head with no warning, Ricardo discovers a telescope which happens to point to the princess' room, the king takes an instant liking to him, the princess pursues him. Whenever something goes wrong, he turns to Ricardo, the voice of reason. At one point Marvin considers revealing the truth about himself to the princess, but ultimately Abigail does it for him, leaving Marvin—again—to react instead of taking action on his own. Even at the very end, when he sort of takes the initiative to go and rescue the princess, she turns out to have rescued herself, and then she has to come back and rescue him.

Overall the princess is a much stronger character than Marvin, and it's not entirely clear why she falls for him, since he seems to have very little personality. She's a smart girl with a lot to offer, whereas Marvin seems to have few outstanding qualities other than the fact that he's our protagonist. For some reason the princess likes him immediately. One has to wonder why she doesn't recognize him, since she did stop at his house to use the washroom earlier. But she doesn't, and she never quizzes him about his background or asks him to supply biographical details about himself, which could have been fertile ground for conflict between them. As it is, their only conflicts come from misunderstandings (Michele, Abigail) which are cleared up entirely too easily. She forgives him much too readily (although she never does discover that he was the one who got her tutor arrested). It's unclear why she and Marvin want to be together.

Abigail is a negative, cheating character from the start, and it's difficult to see the attraction she holds for Marvin. Yes, they were high school sweethearts, but it's obvious as soon as we meet her that she's more interested in other guys than she is in him. She does want to keep him, though. Basically she wants all the guys running after her. In a sense Marvin's hopeless love for her is understandable; he wants her to be something she isn't, as happens all too often in real life, and he doesn't want to give up on her. His love for her seems reasonable to him.

Vidal seems to be a villain merely because that's what he's supposed to be. He detects Marvin's liking for the princess and disapproves of it because, naturally, he wants her for himself. He offers no surprises. Ricardo is a fairly stock sidekick-type character, the guy with all the good ideas who gets the hero out of messes. He's likeable, but essentially his characterization breaks no new ground. Frederick and especially Michele are successful as somewhat quirky secondary characters. Frederick the good reliable friend turns out to be unreliable and untrustworthy. We sympathize with Michele's desire for attention while laughing at her. The Michele/Ricardo pairing seems appropriate.

It was difficult to get emotionally involved with any of the major characters. None of them seemed complex enough to care about. The characterization was too on-the-surface. The writer needs to give us more of a reason to care about these people. He needs to make them unique individuals instead of the fairly stock characters they are right now.

Marvin's goal—to win Abigail back by making the princess fall in love with him—is believable. His arc is easily anticipated, though. He seems to fall in love with the princess merely because we expect him to. Maybe initially he should have found her repulsive. His arc would have been more effective if he had been a stronger, more opinionated character. The plot as a whole would have been more effective with stronger characters. A great deal of potential for conflict was ignored. Marvin surmounted obstacles with relative ease. None of the other characters seemed to have vital goals, with the possible exception of Vidal, whose goal was to get rid of Marvin. His reasons could have been clearer and more original. In general, character motivation was often less than believable. Why did the king like Marvin? Why did the princess fall in love with Marvin? Why did Abigail persistently cheat on him? In the end, why did Abigail choose to kidnap the princess? What did Abigail stand to gain by it? Her motive appears to be class envy, but it isn't foreshadowed enough to be believable. It seemed to happen to add another unexpected twist to the plot and give Marvin a reason to confront Abigail—and possibly give the writer an excuse to put Abigail in jail. Abigail isn't particularly likeable, but until then she isn't a criminal. Her transition from unlikeable to lawbreaker needs to be fleshed out more to make it believable.

The plot as a whole would have been stronger and the conflict higher if all the characters had been pursuing goals that were clearly opposed to one another. For instance, if Marvin had been trying to win the princess' love while the princess was pursuing Vidal and Vidal was pursuing Michele and Abigail was pursuing Vidal and Michele was perhaps pursuing Ricardo… Meanwhile the king was searching for a proud young champion to defend him and his castle against all comers. Vidal wants the job, but the king picks Marvin, who is totally unsuited to it… A great deal of the script's potential was left unexplored.

There are some interesting twists, such as the fact that the final swordfight is with Abigail, not Vidal. But it's clear from the beginning that Marvin will probably prevail and end up in the king's good graces with the princess as his lady. Therefore, tension is low throughout most of the script. Also, and unfortunately, too many of the beats echo A Knight's Tale too closely: The protagonist passes himself off as a knight when he isn't, the princess invites him to dance so he takes dancing lessons from his friends beforehand, he has to joust while a villain (in this case Vidal) plots to bring him down. Even Vidal's desire to unmask him seemed to come straight from A Knight's Tale.

The story exhibits some lapses in logic. For instance, when Marvin unseats the king during the tournament, no one arrests him for it, and later the king even thanks him for saving his life. Perhaps there's something too subtle going on here, some reason for the king's thanks. If so, it needs to be made clearer. The king's attitude toward the princess' studies is another question mark. Initially she tells Marvin that the king opposes her studies; in fact, he's so opposed that her tutor has to creep in by night to tutor her. But later she holds an open Princess for a Day contest to raise money for chickenpox research. Presumably the king is aware of it? He expresses no opinion for or against. The only possible explanation would be that espousing causes is a princess-like thing to do but studying isn't. Then, as mentioned above, the princess fails to recognize Marvin when she meets him at the palace, although she saw him earlier at his house. It's possible that she might not recognize him, since he's now dressed as a knight, but when she visits his house again later, she doesn't appear to remember ever having been there before. Also, during the princess' visit with Marvin's parents, no one wonders where Marvin might be, although he's obviously not there. No one even asks where he is. In fact, his parents don't appear to have noticed his absence at all, although he's been gone for days. Or if they have, they aren't worried about it. They merely invite the princess, Marvin, and Abigail to sleep in Marvin's bed.

The monastic pilgrimage was another puzzle. It seemed unlikely that ALL the monks would leave on pilgrimage at the same time. The monastery in general was a problem. What is a part-time monk? Monasticism is a vocation, not a job. This hurt believability at the very beginning when it was especially crucial. Also, monks are portrayed as lascivious all too often; it didn't feel particularly fresh.

The hook was gentle and showed us nothing really extraordinary, although we immediately understood what Marvin wanted (Abigail).

The plot resolution came too easily. Marvin was never required to make serious sacrifices in order to achieve his goal. The king and princess simply forgave him, and even Vidal apologized in the end. Although the fight with Abigail does finally involve some serious tension (broken by the interposition of Ricardo, Brad, and the rogues), Marvin isn't the one who saves the day; Princess does.

Vidal is the primary subplot. His arrival at the party establishes him as a happy-go-lucky type who'd rather party than arrest people, but from there he goes on to become a fairly stock villain, leading to a fairly stock subplot. Other subplots could have been better developed and contributed more. For instance, we saw very little of Marvin's parents. Jonny's main purpose seemed to be to pull information out of Marvin in the beginning and provide some gratuitous sexual humor. Marvin's connection to the monastery seemed tenuous, a ploy to get the main plot moving. Why a monastery? That story choice added little to his character or the plot.

The dialogue is 100% modern. This may have been the writer's intention. However, the comedic potential might be higher if the dialogue had more of a medieval flavor. Then it, like the setting, would jar humorously with the very modern touches the writer includes.

The writing style was decent, clear, no distraction from the read. In places action verbs could have been used instead of -ing constructions. There were too many camera directions; most of the "CUT TO's," etc., could just be removed.

The humor was there throughout, but a great deal of it was sexual, which could turn off some potential viewers. There were some very funny little touches, such as the kids in the classroom, the guests climbing the wall, and Marvin's encounter with the rogues. Also some very amusing bits of dialogue.

RECOMMENDATION: No real problems with style or structure. The protagonist is passive. The level of conflict is too low. Pass.