"Ruthless People" (1986)

Discuss the practical use of Dramatica. Have questions about how throughlines should be used, how to create Complex Characters or even the various combinations of the 12 Essential Questions and how they will affect your story go here.
RavinDave
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"Ruthless People" (1986)

Postby RavinDave » Sep 26, 2010 11:08 pm

I just watched "Ruthless People" (1986) on YouTube. Certainly one of my favorite comedies of all time. But for some inexplicable reason, I'm baffled in my attempts to analyze it in terms of Dramatica. It seems like it should be easier than most, since the plot is pretty simple at its core.

Not asking for a full-blown analysis (though, you could do worse) -- just some observations if you happen to recall the movie.

The story is deviously clever: Unscrupulous businessman Sam Stone is having an affair and resolves to kill his annoying wife Barbara to get at her family inheritance, but before he can put his plan into effect -- Barbara is kidnapped by former associates with a legitimate grudge against him. They threaten to kill her if a ransom isn't paid, which is exactly what Sam wants anyway.

At the OS Level we have (6) distinct factions:

1.) SAM
2.) BARBARA (his wife)
3.) KEN & SANDY KESSLER (the kidnappers)
4.) CAROL & EARL (the would-be blackmailer and her really stupid lover)
5.) The BEDROOM KILLER
6.) The POLICE

All seem concerned with an Activity of OBTAINING or perhaps DOING ... Sam wants Barbara's money, Ken & Sandy want money and revenge on Sam, Barbara wants to lose weight and wear Bill Blass, the Bedroom Killer wants to kill, the police want to catch the kidnapper/killer.

Who's the Protag/Antag? I suspect the Protag is Ken/Sandy, who force the story by kidnapping Barbara [Driver: Action], opposed by Sam [Antag]. The other OS chars are a mix of complex char appreciations, though Barbara seems to move from a predominately Contagonistic role in the beginning way over to the Guardian side of the fence as the plot unfolds. [Is this even possible? How does one encode for such a drastic about-face?]

BUT ... I could also see Sam as Protag, initiating the story by his resolve [Driver: Decision] to kill his wife and run away with his mistress and inadvertently thwarted in this immediate goal by the kidnappers [Antag]. Just when I see it one way, I invariably talk myself out of it.

Arrggghhh!!!

Let's drop the OS and move on to the Subjective Realm:

Sam is such a terrifically powerful presence, that I' really tempted to make him a Steadfast MC. If so, then he's clearly impacted by the kidnappers. But that doesn't hold together very well. I think I'm (again) being beguiled by Devito's performance.

I think that the kidnappers (Ken/Sandy) must be the MC. I think the whole thesis of the movie is encapsulated in a line of dialogue given to Ken: "I mean, what the hell's the point of being a decent person when no-one is? ", thus I think the audience is meant to see things from their perspective. They're impacted -- NOT by Sam -- by by Barbara, the one they kidnap (making her the IC). Indeed, it is Barbara who, in the end, proves that there *is* value in being a decent person. [ie: Sandy let's Barbara go, Barbara comes back on her own and not only helps helps trap Sam, but promises to sponsor a lucrative business venture for the three of them].

Hangs together nicely, but leaves Sam completely out of the Subjective Story, which seems bizarre.

I dunno ...

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