Here on Earth
I recently took the "Mark Piznarski/Michael Seitzman Filmmaking and Screenwriting Seminar" and after a long discussion about how difficult it was to resolve the second act and move skillfully into the third, here's what I learned: CANCER! Having a difficult time giving your characters a reason to resolve their differences? Afflict one of them with CANCER! Is your hero having a difficult time apprehending some guy who seems beyond the reaches of the law? Give the villain CANCER! Need somebody to fall in love with your homely heroine? Give her CANCER!
Rich boy Kelley Morse (Chris Klein) is in this little town for about ten minutes when he forces another car -- driven by Jasper (Josh Hartnett) -- into a gas station, resulting in a fire which burns down the adjacent family restaurant owned by Jo Cavanaugh (Annette O'Toole) and Earl (Bruce Greenwood). That's where Jasper's girlfriend, Samantha (Leelee Sobieski), works, but once she sees Kelley's hulking pectorals she immediately gets all hot and bothered (though I suspect the proximity to her flaming restaurant had something to do with this). A judge forces Kelley and Jasper to spend the summer rebuilding the restaurant.
One minor problem with director Piznarski's love story is this: Kelley is one, colossal asshole and he never stops being an asshole. I hated his guts from beginning to end. For Christ's sake, if you want the audience to feel something for the characters, you make the boyfriend a woman-beater, and the rich kid a sensitive, misunderstood genius who really wants to spend his life saving the whales. But no, Samantha falls for the asshole while her boyfriend, Mr. Sweet and Unpretentious, stands by and eventually comes to the realization that playing the role of human toilet paper is much more important than standing in the way of true love.
You sit there asking yourself: "What in the hell is wrong with these people?" Then Samantha gets cancer. Maybe I missed something in the film, but here's about how that plays out. Sam cracks her kneecap and is going to a doctor for regular check-ups, and nowhere do I hear anybody use the word cancer. Then, one day, she sees the doctor and he tells the parents (and this is word-for-word), "We knew this could happen." Do the Cavanaughs belong to the HMO from hell? "Oh, sorry, we knew the cancer could spread from her kneecap to her liver, but it didn't occur to us to actually check it." The film then concludes as the dying Samantha becomes increasingly doable and Kelley and Jasper decide not to argue in front of her and they all (except for Samantha) learn important lessons about giving. Great. Let's start by giving me my money back.
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