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Friday, I'm in Love
This month's 2nd column brings Miss Jones' two cents of the unproduced screenplay One Love. Hopefully next week, we'll have two more script reviews to share with the world. Make sure to catch Phone Booth this weekend, it's a great thriller. Cya next week!
One Love Script Review
"A hip hoperatic spin-off of West Side Story is how One Love was log lined, and it certainly delivers on that musical likeness. The premise of both stories are very similar, and I'd even go so far as to say that West Side Story served as a template for the screenplay at hand. Even still, One Love lacks the levity and fun that seems to make most musicals so acceptable. Instead, it takes a grittier approach with the mood of the script, thereby making it hard to ingest the more unbelievable parts of the story. Not to mention, the neo urban-Shakespearean lines being rapped, literally, come across as more ridiculous than romantic. Audiences, past and present, gleefully accept West Side Story's cheesiness because the songs and dances wedge themselves beautifully in and out dialogue. It’s almost fluidic. One Love, on the other hand, is no less cheesy but whether its audience will accept a sappy 'love' story and occasional love songs jaggedly entrenched in hardcore gangster rap is debatable. Not to mention, there is no dancing and hardly any jokes. The Broadway feel or even off-Broadway feel of this script is just not there. Of course, with the slow rebirth of the musical, anything just may be possible. Perhaps, though, the weightier position of this debate can be inferred from the script's three-year (and still counting) hiatus in development hell. Currently, any hard information on the film's progress is nonexistent; and, the only definitive thing I can tell you is that the script lays claim to three debut writers hailing from the University of Southern California: Orlando Bishop, Kevin Brownridge, and Damani Mangum. But even USC’s prominence and extensive resources couldn’t prevent the inevitable for this script. There’s simply something(s) about it that does not work..well. As Toula’s mother of My Big Fat Greek Wedding would say, I go show you!
First of all, the story is about how two feuding rap entourages, one from the west coast (Most Wanted Records) and one from the east (Shadow Records), are forced to come together due to a spontaneous love combustion between Nina, a Lauryn Hill-like Shadow Records artist, and Billy, a disc jockey for Most Wanted. Nina's brother, Plat, also a Most Wanted rapper, takes a dangerous disliking to one Most Wanted rapper in particular, Kee-lo who is Billy's cousin. The feud generally circulates around who's the best rapper, Plat or Kee-lo, but for the most part their anger is simply empty animosity probably fueled more from them fulfilling what the media says they're supposed to be rather than what they really are. That's the way Nina and Billy see it, and I'm inclined to agree. After all, the rappers don't even know each other! With the Grammy for best rapper officially announced, the heat gets even hotter, people get caught up in gun violence, and Nina and Billy's love is tested.
For starters, the main theme of this story is somewhat outmoded. The title, One Love, preaches to ending senseless east coast versus west coast rap battles, which for the most part, have now deteriorated thanks to senseless ‘who has the most bling bling’ rap battles. Considering the story was brainstormed and penned in the latter 1990’s, this script was a noble critique of its time. However, musical environments change, and they have. While an outdated storyline may be the most visible issue, that aspect of the script is fairly minor and with small tweaks, could easily be corrected. What needs the most reevaluation is its imbalance of heavy R-rated gritty gangster rap battles and its overly sentimental PG/PG-13 romance. For some strange reason, moving from angry rappers yelling for pages and pages about how much they want to put a bullet through a rival rapper’s chest to one or two pages of a humble disc jockey rapping on how he would die if he’s not able to express the love he has for a woman he met the day before just didn’t quite…resonate with me. Of course, many Hollywood movies include fairytale romances, West Side Story being one, that are somewhat ingestible, but what makes this one unique is that there has never been a fairytale romance between two people, supposedly the coolest in hip hop, who deliver rap lines that are practically oozing with cheese. I go show you! Every word spoken are rapped:
Billy opens the balcony doors (of his NY hotel room). He looks down and sees NINA under a streetlight. She waves, leaning against the passenger door of her Mercedes.
Does it look like L.A. from the Plaza tonight?
No, there’s a star/so beautiful, so bright.
Nah, for real you light up the night.
I was right about you/ Your game is quite tight.
I thought that we were over when our crews had that fight.
Let them split us up?/ That wouldn’t be right/Their fight shut us down on our long kiss goodnight.
Ooooo-K! I’ll let those lines speak for themselves.
I do commend the writers for trying to give the hurried romance credibility by having the characters state the obvious at various times, i.e. ‘I know I’ve only known him/her for less than a day and this may seem crazy but mine eyes have seen the glory’.
Arguably, the most riveting part of this script is the feud between the rappers and even that doesn’t culminate until the latter part of the script. Honestly, one doesn’t even need to read about half of the dialogue in the script because its repetitive, it doesn’t move the plot forward, and its unnecessary. I found myself becoming frustrated and being able to predict patterns after about page 30 or so.
If I saw anyone’s name in the West coast’s crew, that usually meant the beginning of a rap song with different lyrics but the same general message of ‘you aren’t going to kill me. I’m going to kill you first’. If I saw Billie or Nina’s name, that usually meant they were on the phone talking about how much they want to be with each other but can’t, and then someone would cry at the end of the scene. Those alternating plots wouldn’t have been so bad if the story didn’t stagnate on them for about 1/3 of the script. After the death of a rapper, the script finally moves forward. As sad as it sounds, I was so happy to see that there was a result from all the talk and repetitive hate lyrics even if it did result in the loss of life. It just brought closure to a chapter of the script, allowing it to move on to new territory. Nina and Billie decide to cut a track that both sides like, a hip hop version of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’…as opposed to the old rap classic ‘One Love’. The song is a major hit, but still, the two sides feud. What are they to do? Well, quite frankly, Nina and Billie can’t do anything, and they know it. So, they do the only thing they can. They decide to form their own record label, One Love Records. That idea is short lived. Hmm, a pun.
At this point, I just want to ask miscellaneous questions about things that were on my mind while reading the script. For instance, the script speaks nothing about Nina and Plat’s age difference, so why does she sit back and let her brother dictate who she can date and can’t date? Nina seemed like a pretty strong character, but conveniently weak at those times that it benefited the script’s general direction. Anyway, why is Billie still living with his dad?! Why does Kee-lo’s mom seem surprised when he says a four letter word in front of her? Has she not listened to any of her son’s CDs, probably the same CDs that are paying her bills? Since Nina and Billy have such an objectionable stance to the rest of their labelmates’ attitude towards music, why in the world did they sign the record deal in the first place? That’s like Lauryn Hill signing a deal with Death Row. And finally, who in the world would act in this movie, as is? Who??
I don’t even know what else to say besides the obvious. Please, development people and script doctors across the land, help rework this script! It has serious potential and could even open the doors to a whole new type of musical. But right now, just…..no.
What makes musicals such memorable pieces is the way they allow you to be apart of the film. There is an open invite to sing and dance along. Musicals are supposed to be fun, or at least, entertaining. Speaking to the musical lovers only, don’t we just love to sing along to The Sound of Music, Sarafina!, My Fair Lady, or even more present, Chicago!? With One Love, would we really rap along to lyrics that go:
My niggas take heed/what they really want/is to feed the greed/fixin’ this game for the fam/the nephews and the nieces/from now on we come in peace/ or you’ll leave in pieces/One music make the whole world move/ One love
If that’s One Love, then sadly, I don’t want any part of it."
-Miss J, using her powers for good.[an error occurred while processing this directive]
That's all folks...
Jean-François Allaire (aka DeadPool)
Questions, comments, praise etc. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean-François Allaire is TNMC's first columnist. At only 24 years old he has become a respected entertainment journalist, with his columns appearing in Corona's Coming Attractions and Scr(i)pt magazine. He also writes a monthly column in Screenwriters Monthly entitled 'The Last Word.' Hailing from Montreal this young writer is determined to dig up all the details on the movies before they hit your local theater. If you're part of a movie production then you really need to be talking to him.