Friday, May 12, 2017

Script review - "Bonfire of the Vanities" by Michael Cristofer - third draft 2 April 1990

A famous flop, mostly because someone wrote a book about it - a good book, which I've read, and remember a lot about (Tom Hanks playing basketball with the crew, Melanie Griffith not having any friends among the crew, Bruce Willis being shoe horned into the film, Hanks being cast because he was likeable, Morgan Freeman being the recipient of affirmative action casting, Brian De Palma complaining about people always going on about his Hitchcock rip offs then ripping off a scene from Foreign Correspondent...).

I read the novel too and have to admit being underwhelmed. Maybe I read it at the wrong time of life or something - but it wasn't a very exciting story (not particularly nice but not evil white man goes on to suffer at the hands of politics) and it didn't seem to have any of the stunning insights of Wolfe's Right Stuff. I do remember phrases like "Master of the Universe".

And I found the film version to be very much "what's the point"? Reading the script reminded me of that - what's the point of it? It doesn't really encapsulate an era or a time. It's not a great story. The characters aren't particularly memorable - Sherman is over paid, cheats on his wife, is a bit of a whimp, probably doesn't deserve to suffer. His mistress is a one note sex bomb femme fetale. Peter is just drunk. We know very very little about the kid who is hit or his family. The black leader and Jewish prosecutor are caricatures. The whole thing is a downer. I'm not sure what emotion the filmmakers were hoping to invoke in an audience other than "gee I saw the film of a best seller".

Cristofer has said the three hour script version was fantastic. I haven't read that, to be fair. This isn't fantastic.

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