The Judge… watch me judge…

You want my advice? I assume.

Do not write a movie that makes the reader / viewer feel bad at the end. Simple enough. I suffered through THE JUDGE last night. Lord, what on earth made someone greenlight that?

Odd, actually, to be watching a screener after the movie has already come and gone through the theaters like crap through a goose.

It’s no fun and ends on a downer note. Yuk. I should have stopped watching, but didn’t… Maybe because it was a holiday and I felt flush with time.

The story is excellent. Well, the story idea is. Robert Downey, jr. is a hot shot lawyer and Robert Duvall, his grumpy judge father, hits someone with a car and goes on trial. He’s the world’s worst client and it’s up to Downey to save his old man. They got along horribly for their whole lives, and now they’re forced together.

Over and over and over and over they have arguments, horrible arguments. Then they have wonderful, heartwarming moments where they bond. Some of those moments are truly lovely. Well worth the price (well, for me, free) of admission. But Duvall keeps acting like a jerk. Downey keeps acting like a jerk. And it’s no fun at all to participate in and goes on and on past the point of numbness. Seems a huge chunk of that back and forth could have been cut.

Finally, Duvall decides that he must have done it and sort of confesses in the courtroom, destroying all the work his son did to save him. Downer. And he goes to jail. Downer. And once he gets out of jail and everything is hunky dory, Duvall dies. Another downer. They try to pick it up at the end and make you feel good because Downey ends up with a nice girlfriend, but it’s too damn late. Too much down, down, down, down, down, down.

And then it’s over. Ugh.

When you come up with an idea, try to make the reader feel at least slightly jolly at the end, or you’re done. It’s SO difficult to get a movie made these days, you’re shooting yourself in the foot or, more likely, the head, if you make the reader feel bad. Give them some hope. Make them feel good. Make them feel like it was worth their time — either in the theater or at their desk.

It takes eons to write a movie, so don’t base it on an idea that’s going to make the reader wish they hadn’t read it…

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5 Comments

Filed under Good Writing, Screenwriting, Uncategorized

5 responses to “The Judge… watch me judge…

  1. R

    Exactly, I couldn’t agree more. I hate movies like this. Same with Mystic River when the ending is so depressing it’s pointless.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Maybe I’m just getting old… I dunno. I’m still a fan of weird and strange and dark and odd… but THE JUDGE was just relentless in its agony. “Great acting” is NOT a reason to see a movie.

  2. Big Mac

    If you want happy endings dial up Disney. They specialize in fantasy endings for those who adore banality.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      My feeling is you need an emotional uptick at the end… not happy necessarily, but make us feel better as we leave for the parking lot. Few movies (that get distribution) end with the audience feeling crummy at the end. “Happy” may be the wrong word. It’s easier to sell if we feel a bit of hope. I may have mentioned this before, but at the end of TITANIC, everyone’s alive.

  3. William

    I saw The Judge not long ago. What frustrated me is they never tied the issue of his failing marriage up. In Act I they clearly established his marriage was faltering.

    His daughter asked him outright what’s going on at the midpoint. They sort of implied he’s going to get a divorce when Downey meets up with the girl from his high school. I would have liked to at least see him sign a divorce paper or something…

    How can they set that up and just drop it???

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