Final Draft

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I think it’s rational to say that movies affect different people in different ways. You can never fully trust another person’s opinion on something because it may mean a lot to you and nothing to them or vice versa. Show a popular high school football player “All About Lily Chou Chou” and see if he can identify with the subtle themes of loneliness and misunderstanding. Chances are he wouldn’t be able to tell you what the film was even about. Have some optimistic virgin watch “The Rules of Attraction” and see if they care enough to identify with drug-abusing sexual characters that are made to be generally unlikable. I don’t know if it’s because I suffer from depression, but I’ve always liked things that are extremely sad or disturbing to my emotions. I guess I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that something so trivial like a song or a movie could shift my emotional plates so drastically and even go as far as ruining my day. Regardless, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Aside from a few emergency room visits and witnessing a few deaths firsthand, movies and music are some of the few things that make me feel alive and horribly understood. Such is the case with Jonathan Dueck’s psychological-horror/thriller “Final Draft.” If I weren’t the type of person that I am, I probably wouldn’t have liked this movie. I probably would agree with most people on the internet who say it’s “too slow” and “not scary.” However, I’m not like that, and I found this movie to be an extremely well crafted look into loneliness and despair. “Final Draft” may not be frightening to most, but if you can relate to the film’s protagonist, you may find yourself haunted in more ways than one.

James Van Der Beek plays Paul Twist, an uninspired screenwriter whose depression over his past prevents him from reaching his full potential…or any potential for that matter. His computer is covered in dust and he spends most of his time moping around his pad or having coffee with his friend David (Darryn Lucio, who wrote “Final Draft”), an actor who made his big break in the movie adapted from Paul’s first screenplay. David is a good friend to Paul, but a straight shooter as well. He tells Paul to stop dwelling on his ex-wife and his past and to try and do something useful with his life, particularly by returning to writing.

Over coffee, Paul tells David of a dream he had that previous night involving an incident he witnessed as a child, which resulted in the accidental death of a circus clown. As the clown was dying, Paul (who thought it was part of a slapstick routine) continued to laugh. Now he found himself convinced that the clown had come back to haunt him as an adult for mocking his death. Blown away by the story, David insists that Paul turn the “vengeful clown” scenario into a screenplay. Still uninspired, Paul can’t bring himself to write anything until David tells him that he pitched it to a studio executive who was very interested in adapting it. Unfortunately, he has only 18 days to write it. Believing that this could be the turnaround that he desperately needs, Paul forces a reluctant David to lock him in his apartment until those 18 days are up. He promises that by then he’ll have a finished script.

Paul still can’t bring himself to write anything until he sees some old photographs from his past. Using his ex-wife, his brother, a high school bully, a jealous friend, a pin up girl, and David, Paul is able to emote his frustrations and pent up feelings about them into his screenplay. In the story, each character is attacked by the dead clown and killed in a fashion that makes it look like suicide. Everything is going fine until Paul starts to experience cabin fever, resulting in his characters and problems coming to life before his very eyes, adding a heavy blow to his already declining insanity. Soon, both the screenplay and Paul’s life begin to spiral out of control.

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It’s hard to write a short synopsis for this movie, which is ironic because it’s a fairly simple plot. What makes it so detailed is Paul and his personality. From the beginning of the film, we can tell he’s not completely sane. He’s not crazy by any means, but like anyone with depression or a strong attachment to their past, it always seems like his mind is elsewhere. We know he’s not really being stalked by a dead clown and that when he sees his ex-wife in his apartment screaming at him; we know that she’s not really there, but it’s these metaphors that make the film so powerful and effective. For instance, how many of you have thought about someone you’re angry with and you make up certain scenarios in your head, even practicing aloud what you would say if these events were to really happen? I still do that, but watching Paul take it one level higher by having heated arguments with pictures and figments of his imagination really sink into your head. How much would it take to push any of us that much farther to insanity?

The film is very competently acted, specifically on Van Der Beek’s part. If I didn’t already know how great of an actor this guy was, I’d swear he had more skeletons in his closet than Ed Gein. Lucio’s script is smart and moving and it would appear that he has had experience with depression as well. I don’t believe any Average Joe could write such strong metaphors and troubling scenes without ever having once graced misery with his company. The direction does great justice to the script and the editing is near superb, using quick and clever cuts to blend Paul’s insanity and reality into one living nightmare. All in all, I would certainly recommend this film to anyone who has the patience and understanding of what the story is trying to accomplish. The last frame of the movie will either make perfect sense to you, or you’ll completely misinterpret it as a stereotypical horror movie ending. Put it this way…if you find yourself laughing at the clown in the final shot, then you misunderstood his act as well.

The Hidden Message: “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.”

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~ by exploitnation on March 6, 2008.

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