Title - Liars (A-E)
Written By - Emma Forrest
Liars (A-E) is a script that appeared on this year's Black List - the list of the year's most-liked spec scripts in Hollywood. It was characterised as a hip romantic comedy in a lot of articles I've read about it, and naturally I had a compulsion to board the bandwagon to see what attracted Richard Linklater, Rebecca Hall & Kat Dennings to the project.
Liars (A-E) tells the story of BACALL LOOMIS, a 29 year old woman who has just been dumped by her famous musician boyfriend MARK FRIDAY, who on the very day he broke up with her was discussing having children with her. So he's kind of an asshole.
Also, the next day (or perhaps that day, I'm not really sure) is November 4th - election day. Everyone in this film is an Obamaniac. They LOVE Obama. So in the midst of her grief & mopiness, BACALL summons the strength to go to an election party with her friend ELISHIA (seriously, is "Elishia" supposed to be like "Alicia"? Or is it a fake name like "Bacall"?) where they watch Obama win the election and deliver his acceptance speech. Upon overhearing a remark about BACALL being upset about Mark, BACALL decides that she must go to Mark's and collect her belongings. Then she whines about MARK having a copy of the Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home, because she's the one who loves Dylan and it's not fair that this is yet another thing that he gets to take from her. 'Cause you know how Bob Dylan and Martin Scorcese are like kind of avant-garde and not a lot of people like them, so BACALL totally deserves to be the only person allowed like them.
Then BACALL goes home and gets drunk. Then she goes to MARK's house and asks him "for her blowjobs back". Then it's six weeks later and BACALL is painting her living room, and she starts moaning about how she had these Shephard Fairey (the guy who designed the iconic Obama-Hope image) paintings but her ex-boyfriend kept them. Then she falls off a ladder and breaks her nose. Then she doesn't have health insurance, and is left with a bill of $18,000. So she decides to embark on a cross-country road trip with ELISHIA before they go to Obama's inauguration, and collect her belongings from ex-boyfriends along the way, including the Shepard Fairey paintings which upon their retrieval, she will sell in order to pay for her medical expenses. That way ELISHIA can pimp out her unpublished post-feminism book for pre-teens to book stores all over the country.
Among the items that she wants to get back are a nude picture of her taken by a guy, Judaism (her religion) from an Irish ex-boyfriend, her mother's handwritten recipe for kugel ('cause her Mom's dead and she needs something to hold onto her memory), her dog, her motorcycle, a VHS tape of The Dark Crystal and of course the Shephard Fairey paintings. She gets them all back hassle-free, with the exception of the paintings (I'll get to that). Along the way she meets a handsome African-American dude TOM who happens to work for Obama. They have a mini-connection but BACALL starts crying in the middle of a make-out session, thus putting a temporary kybosh on anything happening there.
Finally, she gets to New York to retrieve her Shephard Fairey paintings from her ex-boyfriend NEIL. She meets him, chastises him for being late this one night only for him to explain to her that he was buying an engagement ring and that's why he was late. Since she was the one who dumped him, and did so in a pretty callous way, she decides that she can't take the paintings from him.
So we're back to square one.
But then, BACALL has an Edison moment, and decides that she should sell her newly retrieved motorcycle, and then bet the proceeds. Bet on what, you ask? Bet on MARK winning a Grammy for Best Song. Then he wins, and then her & ELISHIA are set.
They go to DC for an inauguration ball that cute black dude TOM invited her to. Guess who's there? Mark! They have a moment, where he gives some lame explanation for dumping her - basically he's not in any place for a relationship - and then she puts that Mark thing to rest, and cute black guy TOM gives her his card and tells her to call him when she feels ready.
Then she goes to the inauguration, and looks at the card like "Yeah, I'm gonna call him" and it's over.
Oh, and ELISHIA gets her book published. Turns out it's not serious like she thought. It's actually really satirical, so she'll probably get to appear on Jon Stewart and write for The Onion now.
As you can maybe tell from my tone, I wasn't a big fan of this script. I felt like it wasn't funny enough, it wasn't realistic enough, and the lead character wasn't likeable enough.
The character of BACALL is probably what I had the biggest issue with. She was kind of a moany asshole with no real personality, and ELISHIA says it best when she says -
I'm so mad at you right now. I wish I'd done this trip alone. Seriously, Bacall. Seriously, fuck you.
Seriously, I mean BACALL had no personality. There was no evidence that she was funny, smart, kind etc. She was completely self-absorbed, annoying and moaned about everything, and her entire focus was on these ex-boyfriends, which made it difficult for the reader to get to know her at all. Same can be kind of said for ELISHIA. We get a sense that she's quirky, off-kilter and sarcastic (she makes constant sarcastic remarks about Mark) but it's all a little forced.
The idea of getting the items back from her exes seems good on paper, but it just didn't really work. Each of the item retrievals takes up maybe two pages, and there is never a struggle. With the dog, she literally walks into a room to find her ex-boyfriend high on cocaine, takes the dog and leaves. End of. For the kugel recipe, ELISHIA distracts the ex for a minute, BACALL looks in a drawer, finds it and leaves. For Judaism (which was a totally stupid idea), we listen to an Irish guy say Hebrew words, and she continues on her merry way.
I also feel like Forrest tried too hard to be hip. From the nonsensical title to the character's names (BACALL?! REALLY?) to characters reciting quotes from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to a sing-song of Bruce Springsteen to BACALL having sex with Bob Dylan at one point, it's all so forced and barf-worthy.
ALSO - ELISHIA seems to have no natural curiosity whatsoever. BACALL tells her a heap of asides that are never elaborated on like, "Oh, I was backing singer for Ladysmith Black Mambazo for two weeks" or "I worked as an assistant for Terrence Malick".The only explanation given? "I just fell into it." If I were ELISHIA, I'd be like "Hold up, you what?" BACALL isn't 90 years old, she can't brush off past events with something vague like "I just fell into it."
Look, I'm sure Liars (A-E) will make a fine rom-com. Like most rom-coms it has broadly drawn characters, an unrealistic premise poorly executed, not enough comedy and not enough romance. Liars (A-E)'s biggest asset is Obama, but I'm not sure how valuable it will be come 2011 - the film's planned release date.
In conclusion Liars (A-E) was a major disappointment that was a largely frustrating read. The writing is pretty bland, and the only hope that is had of being elevated was with the help of Richard Linklater, Rebecca Hall and Kat Dennings. However according to numerous sources, the project is dead so we may not see it hit out screens after all. Maybe someone re-read the script?
Grade - C-