Welcome to the first of several blog posts in which I discuss the year in movies. This year, I’m starting with an annual post that I love compiling every year, a selection of the best dialogue I heard in the theater. Like many other movie critics, I tend to discuss the contributions of directors and actors because those are easier to handle in the limited space that a movie review offers. Here in cyberspace, the unlimited space allows me to showcase the verbal aspect of moviemaking. This year, there was enough good dialogue that I didn’t include Minister Mason’s initial speech from Snowpiercer (written by Bong Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson) or the Cool Girl rant from Gone Girl (written by Gillian Flynn). As always, the words here are not taken from a shooting script but rather transcribed from the finished film. The stage directions are mine. Also, as always, WARNING: LOTS OF STRONG LANGUAGE AHEAD.
I wish I were as high on Ira Sachs’ films as other people are, but his Love Is Strange (co-written with Mauricio Zacharias) is exquisite. Here’s a sample of its exquisiteness that helps set up the story. In it, longtime gay couple George and Ben can no longer pay for their Manhattan apartment after George’s homosexuality has gotten him fired from his job teaching music at a Catholic school. So the couple has now gathered their closest friends — Ben’s nephew Elliott and his wife Katie, Ben’s niece Mindy, Ted and Roberto (another gay couple who live in the building), and neighbor Honey.
GEORGE: Well, let’s not forget that the real estate agent gets a first-month commission, the co-op board also gets a month, plus they charge a five percent administration fee.
MINDY: A month? That’s ridiculous. Why do they have to charge an administration fee?
ROBERTO: They just want to discourage rentals in the building.
MINDY: I hate co-ops.
HONEY: It’s just so hard to find a condo in Manhattan.
TED: That’s not true anymore.
GEORGE: Anyway, we’re trying to explain why renting doesn’t help us, because…
MINDY (cutting him off): You’ve been to my house, right? You know how much my real estate taxes are? Three thousand. That’s for the whole year.
BEN (objecting): It’s Poughkeepsie, Mindy.
GEORGE: Renting would leave us owing about a thousand a month. If we find a studio for, say, fifteen hundred, and that’s very hard, I mean, we’re starting every month at about three thousand.
KATIE: And you can’t afford that?
GEORGE: Well, with my private lessons and Ben’s pension…
(He shakes his head. There’s a knock at the door. Ben gets up to answer it.)
MINDY: Why did you guys have to go on such a fancy honeymoon?
BEN: Mindy, that’s none of your business.
MINDY (to herself): Of course it is, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
ROBERTO: Shhh! Cállate!
MINDY: I’m just saying there’s nothing wrong with Provincetown.
BEN (showing in Elliott): Here, have a seat.
ELLIOTT: Everything okay?
BEN: Yeah, yeah, just wanted to talk to you.
GEORGE: Now we invited you all here today because, well, you’re family.
ELLIOTT: Are you telling us you’re getting divorced already?
ROBERTO (chuckling): That’s what I thought, too.
GEORGE: No. We, uh … (pause) We have to sell the apartment. And we’ve found a buyer already. So pretty soon we’re gonna have to move out. Now, it won’t be long before I get another job, and it shouldn’t be long before we find another apartment, but in the meantime…
BEN (resuming his seat next to George): It’s just a transition phase. Probably just a week or two.
(They hold hands and take a deep breath.)
GEORGE: We need a place to stay.
ELLIOTT: Wait a minute, did I miss something here?
BEN: These last weeks have been tough on us, Elliott. Losing the job, looking for health insurance, we need a breather.
GEORGE: Yeah, believe me, moving out of here is the last thing we want to do.
BEN: It’s only temporary. We’ll find a new place. Very soon.
The best British movie I saw all year was Pride, telling the real-life story of a group of London gay activists who came to the aid of a Welsh community of coal miners during the 1984 strike when the Thatcher government effectively broke the power of the labor unions. In this early scene, activists Mike Jackson and Mark Ashton have just organized a gay pride march and now are gathering their fellow gays (including a token lesbian and the movie’s teenage protagonist, who’s nicknamed “Bromley” from the London suburb where he’s from) in a nearby bookstore to persuade them to raise money for the striking miners. The scene is funny, but it’s also typical of the film’s passionate argument for different minorities to band together and make social change. The script is by Stephen Beresford.
MIKE: No red wine on the floor, please!
MARK: It was a pretty good march today. Not much in the way of beatings or abuse. Hardly any petrol bombs or swastikas. Is it me, or are the police getting soft? (chuckling from crowd) It’s funny, they’ve stopped hanging around outside our clubs lately. What’s that about? Do you think they finally got sick of all that Donna Summer? (more chuckling) My guess is that they went somewhere else. To pick on someone else. My guess is that while we’re enjoying a temporary reprieve, they’re here. (holding up a newspaper detailing police clashes with miners) Giving these poor sods the shit we usually get. Now, these mining communities are being bullied just like we are, right? Bullied by the police, bullied by the tabloids, bullied by the government.
MAN: Do any of them need a hug?
(The crowd laughs.)
MARK (seriously): No. What they need is cash, and they need it urgently.
RAY (sarcastically): Yes, because the miners have always come to our aid, haven’t they?
MARK (to Roy): Are you kidding me? Are you… ?
MIKE (cutting him off, to the crowd): Why don’t we talk about today?
MARK (to crowd): Today, with only a couple of buckets, we raised nearly two hundred quid. Right? Think about what we could achieve if we really started trying.
SECOND MAN: I’m from Durham.
MARK (to him): Then you know exactly what we’re talking about.
SECOND MAN: I know those bastards kicked the shit out of me every morning on my way to school and every night on my way home.
(He walks out. Others follow.)
MIKE (subdued): We are proposing to meet at least once a week and just to do as many collections as we can.
MARK: Oh, and we’ve got a name. (pointing to a label on a bucket Mike is holding up) LGSM. Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.
STEPH: It’s not very catchy.
MARK: It’s a support group, Steph, not a skiffle band.
MIKE: Right. Come on let’s have a show of hands, shall we? Who’s in? Guys?
(Mark raises his hand. So do a few others. Most turn to leave.)
MIKE: Come on, guys, please. Oh, come on, guys.
MARK (seeing only a few people left in the store): Is that it?
REGGIE (pointing to himself and Ray): We’ve actually been looking for things to do together as a couple.
MARK: This is perfect. Youse can feed the miners and your relationship. (to Mike) How many is that?
MIKE: That’s six.
MARK: It’s better than five.
STEPH: Not as good as seven.
GETHIN (calling outside the store): Jonathan!
JEFF: Oh God, here come the gay libbers.
MIKE: Brilliant party, Geth.
GETHIN: I’m sure you could use the backroom here, if you’re lookin’ for a base, that is.
MARK: We are. We are. That’s amazing, Gethin. Thank you.
GETHIN: And what about me and Jonathan? Or is it exclusively for the under-25s?
MARK: Of course not, everyone’s welcome.
MIKE (seeing Jonathan drunkenly singing “Tainted Love” outside): You sure Jonathan’s interested?
(Jonathan starts blowing a whistle as loud as he can.)
GETHIN: He’s at a bit of a loose end. He just needs something to occupy him. A project.
STEPH: What about Bromley over there?
JOE: I, I’ve just started catering college.
MARK: Good. Congratulations, all of you. You’re the founder members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.
STEPH (half-joking): Terrific, let’s bring down the government.
The underappreciated Dom Hemingway is written baroquely by the underappreciated British filmmaker Richard Shepard. In it, the title character, a garrulous small-time criminal, has been released from prison after 12 years and celebrated by going on an epic bender of alcohol, cocaine, and hookers. Now, as he travels by train the next morning with his pal Dickie, he’s feeling the ill effects. You probably can’t talk like this when you’re hung over, but you’ve probably had a hangover that feels this way.
DOM (waking up and moaning): Oh, my ’ead’s throbbin’. Fuckin’ throbbin’, Dickie. Like a disco in my ’ead. Like a fucking Manila disco full of transvestites and suckling pigs. I’ve got a seizure in my brain. A diabolical seizure of fucking and sucking coke. I did too much. I tried to make up for too much lost time. I fucked myself to death. My ’ead’s gonna explode. Bits of my brain’s gonna go everywhere. I’m gonna ruin your blazer.
DICKIE: You’re gonna be all right, Dom.
DOM: Fuck you! You don’t know my ’ead. You don’t know the revolution goin’ on (burps) inside of it. Fucking insurgents inside my brain. Cossacks sodomizing my cranium.
DICKIE (handing him a flask): Here.
DOM: What’s that? A ’and grenade?
DICKIE: Hair of the dog.
DOM: That dog shat on my soul.
DICKIE: Drink it. It’s mother’s little helper.
DOM: My mother left me when I was three. Fuck my mother.
(He takes a long sip, leans back, and exhales.)
DOM: Fuck, I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m gonna die on this train.
DICKIE: If dying on this train will shut you up, I’m all for it.
DOM: Some fuckin’ friend you are!
DICKIE: You can’t make up for twelve years in three days, Dom.
DOM: Well, I tried. (long pause) I fucking tried.
I left Wes Anderson and Moonrise Kingdom out when I compiled this post for 2012. This year, I’m making room for his script for The Grand Budapest Hotel. In this scene, hotel concierge Gustave H. and his lobby boy Zero have gone to a castle for the funeral of one of the hotel’s distinguished guests, identified as Madame D. The reading of her will is conducted in a crowded room by her executor, Deputy Kovacs. You expect the craftsmanship in Anderson’s dialogue. Less expected is the abrupt shift between Kovacs’ legalese and Dmitri’s profane, offensive outburst. The same goes for the unnamed old man in the crowd who’s completely lost.
KOVACS (after signaling the room for quiet): This is Madame D.’s last will and testament. It consists of a general tontine drawn up before the event of her husband’s death forty six years ago, in combination with six hundred and thirty five amendments, notations, corrections, and letters of wishes executed during the subsequent decades.
(He takes a huge pile of documents out of a box and lays them on the table with a great thump.)
KOVACS: The ultimately legality of this accumulation requires further analysis, but in the opinion of this office, it was Madame D.’s intention that control of the vast bulk of her estate should be transferred forthwith to her son, Dmitri, with special allowances for his sisters, Marguerite, Laetizia, and Carolina, and minor gifts for various members of the extended family, as shown in the list of recipients, which I will elucidate in due course.
(The audience murmurs amongst themselves.)
KOVACS: However … (long pause) … an additional codicil delivered into my possession by post only this morning, and by all indications sent by Madame D. during the last hours of her life, contains an amendment to the original certificate, which, as prescribed by law, I will read to you now. The authenticity of this document has not yet been confirmed by the presiding magistrate, so I ask that all parties be patient and refrain from comment until such time as our investigations can be completed.
(He picks up the note and unfolds it.)
KOVACS (reading): “To my esteemed friend who comforted me in my later years and brought sunshine into the life of an old woman who thought that she would never be happy again, Monsieur Gustave H., I hereby bequeath, bestow, and devise, free of all taxation, and with full and absolute fiduciary entitlement, the painting known as ‘Boy With Apple’…
GUSTAVE (to himself): Wow!
KOVACS: “… by Johannes van Hoytl …
GUSTAVE: I can’t believe it!
KOVACS: “… the Younger …
DMITRI (dropping his flask): What?
KOVACS: “… which gave us both so much pleasure.”
LAETIZIA: The van Hoytl?
CAROLINA (simultaneously): Can she do that?
MARGUERITE (simultaneously): Tax free?
OLD MAN (to Young Man): Who’s Gustave H.?
GUSTAVE (stepping forward and raising his hand): I’m afraid that’s me, darling.
(Everyone turns around to look at him.)
DMITRI (standing up, pointing, and yelling): That fucking faggot! He’s a concierge! (to Gustave) What are you doing here?
GUSTAVE: I’ve come to pay my respects to a great woman whom I loved.
DMITRI (to assembly): This man is an intruder in my home!
GUSTAVE: It’s not yours yet, Dmitri. Only when probate is granted and the deed of entitlement is…
DMITRI (cutting him off): You’re not getting “Boy With Apple,” you goddamned little fruit.
GUSTAVE (shocked): How is that supposed to make me feel?
DMITRI (to everyone): Call police, I’m pressing charges! This criminal has plagued my family for nearly twenty years! He’s a ruthless adventure and a con artist who preys on mentally feeble, sick old ladies! (to Gustave) And he probably fucks them, too.
GUSTAVE: I go to bed with all my friends.
(Dmitri punches Gustave. The crowd gasps. Zero punches Dmitri. The crowd gasps again. Jopling punches Zero. The crowd gasps once more.)
OLD MAN (to Young Man): Where’s Céline?
YOUNG MAN: What? She’s dead! We’re reading her will.
OLD MAN (remembers): Oh, yes. Yes, of course.
(Gustave, Dmitri, and Zero all get up off the floor.)
DMITRI (being restrained by Jopling): If I learn you ever once laid a finger on my mother’s body, living or dead, I swear to God I’ll cut your throat. You hear me?
GUSTAVE: I thought I was supposed to be a fucking faggot.
DMITRI (thinking for a second): You are, but you’re bisexual.
GUSTAVE: Let’s change the subject. I’m leaving.
In Happy Christmas, a slacker named Jenny and her gal pal Carson sit in an office with Jenny’s novelist sister-in-law Kelly and try to cure her writer’s block by giving her ideas about how to write an erotic novel for the mass market. There’s about a 100% chance that I’ll be thinking about this while watching next year’s Fifty Shades of Grey adaptation. The script is by Joe Swanberg, but his films are usually heavily improvised, so undoubtedly some of the dialogue is coming from the actresses in this scene: Lena Dunham, Anna Kendrick, and Melanie Lynskey.
CARSON: What about just “cock” and “pussy”?
JENNY: Does “pussy” make sense?
CARSON: I think if “cock” makes sense, “pussy” makes sense.
KELLY (aware she’s making a double entendre): I don’t love “pussy.”
CARSON: What would you call …
JENNY: It’s funny.
CARSON: I was talking to my sister, and I was asking her. She was like “I hate the word ‘pussy,’ ” and I was like, “Well, what do you and your girlfriends say if you’re having sex?”
CARSON: She was like, “Vagina.”
CARSON: They’d be like “I want to touch your vagina.”
KELLY: “Touch my vagina.”
KELLY: It’s pretty easy to just work around.
KELLY: It’s sharp pain that quickly turns into pleasure.
CARSON: I’d want throbbing pleasure.
JENNY: No, no. I can’t get behind that, no. I’m standing, I’m putting my foot down.
KELLY: Maybe in this dream, I just… I think in this dream I should…
JENNY: I’m not saying … I’m not saying it should hurt for half an hour.
CARSON: I’m just saying I think he should just kiss her and start to put his hand in her whatever, medieval underpants she has, and then cut out.
JENNY: Yeah, that seems good.
KELLY: Of this dream?
CARSON: She wakes up just when he’s about to touch her on her …
KELLY: How do we, what do we call the thing that …?
CARSON: “Rosebud” or whatever horrible thing.
JENNY: That’s an asshole. “Rosebud” is an asshole.
CARSON: I didn’t know that.
JENNY: Yeah! That’s a thing!
CARSON: I didn’t know that. I don’t have an asshole, so I don’t ever have to worry about coming up with names for it.
KELLY (embarrassed): I didn’t know that, and I don’t like that.
CARSON: I mean, I think you just write it, like, super-Danielle Steel. You don’t have to try to be really creative, because the audience that wants to read a book like this doesn’t really care, like, if you’re doing linguistic acrobatics. They just care if you’re getting from A to B.
JENNY: No, no, I mean literally just, what do we call her clit that’s not a clit? ‘Cause I feel like you can’t say “clit.”
CARSON (suggesting): “Most sensitive point.”
KELLY: Ooh, that’s so good! And for penis, we can just say “him,” and for vagina, we can just say “her.” Like, “he puts himself inside her” and that kind of thing.
CARSON: Totally. That seems like an easy way.
JENNY: I mean, we’re gonna have to mix it up a little bit.
CARSON (thinks): “She puts herself inside him.”
KELLY: That’s mixing it up.
Here’s a terribly amusing exchange from John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary, which takes place in an empty church in northwestern Ireland, where Father James Lavelle counsels Milo, a highly repressed young villager who dresses in an ill-fitting suit and seems to have trouble relating to his fellow man (and woman, as the dialogue reveals). The conversation starts with sex but then ranges far afield, and the laugh lines come at a blistering rate.
MILO: I need to speak to you, Father.
FR. JAMES: Take a pew, literally.
(They both sit, with the priest in the pew immediately in front of Milo’s.)
MILO: Why do people kill themselves, Father?
FR. JAMES: Why do people kill themselves? That’s jumpin’ in at the deep end. Lots of reasons, I suppose. Why do you think, yourself?
MILO: I dunno. The drink, depression. Lack of sex, maybe.
FR. JAMES: You’re a presentable young man. I wouldn’t have thought you’d have much trouble in that area.
MILO: I don’t have the gift of the gab. Never had it.
FR. JAMES: That’s makin’ you feel suicidal?
MILO: More bored than anything else. It’s either committin’ suicide or joinin’ the Army.
FR. JAMES: Well, those are pretty drastic choices either way.
MILO: You can learn a trade if you join the Army.
FR. JAMES: You can learn a trade if you don’t join the Army.
MILO: You can experience more of life.
FR. JAMES: You think you can become a more authentic person by fighting in a war? By killing people?
MILO: You’re against me joinin’ the Army, is what I’m sensin’.
FR. JAMES: Well, let’s put it this way. I’ve always felt there’s something inherently psychopathic about someone who joins the Army in peacetime. As far as I’m concerned, people join the Army because they want to find out what it’s like to kill someone. I hardly think that’s an inclination that should be encouraged in modern society, do you?
FR. JAMES: Jesus Christ didn’t think so, either. And the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” does not have an asterisk beside it referrin’ you to the bottom of the page where you’ll find a list of instances where it’s okay to kill people.
MILO: What about self-defense?
FR. JAMES (pause): That’s a tricky one, all right. We’re hardly bein’ invaded though, are we?
MILO: The war on terror has no borders.
FR. JAMES: I don’t think Sligo is too high on al-Qaeda’s agenda, Milo, do you?
MILO: Who knows what goes on in the Muslim mind? I have had murderous feelings, though, I have to admit. Not getting laid, it’s starting to make me feel really angry towards women. And so I thought, well, if I join the Army, those inclinations, as you call ‘em, would be seen as a plus. On your application, like. I mean, they don’t come right out and say that’s what they’re looking for. In the advertisements, it’s all about seeing the world and all that shite. But I can see how wanting to murder someone would be like having a degree in engineering or something, you know? It would outweigh my lack of qualifications.
FR. JAMES: Right. (pause) Do you use pornography at all?
MILO: I feel I’ve exhausted all the possibilities of pornography.
FR. JAMES: All of them?
MILO: Well, nearly all of them. I’m onto transsexual pornography at the moment. Chicks with dicks, you know?
By coincidence, here’s another movie featuring a character named Milo, The Skeleton Twins. This comedy written by Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman is about two siblings struggling with a family history of depression. After an encounter with an ex-boyfriend, Milo has gotten very drunk and been found standing at the edge of a rooftop. The police have now deposited him back at home with his sister, Maggie. Milo probably doesn’t know it, but Maggie is really talking to herself when she gives advice to him about how to bear life’s disappointments.
MILO: Maggie, don’t freak out.
MAGGIE: What is going on?
MILO: You wouldn’t understand.
MAGGIE: Try me. You might be surprised.
MILO: I get depressed about my life and I do stupid things. That’s it.
MAGGIE: We all get sad about our lives, Milo. That doesn’t mean we go jumping off of rooftops.
MILO: I wasn’t gonna jump.
MAGGIE (suddenly loud): Okay, well, how do I know that?
MILO: Okay, I’m sorry.
MAGGIE (sitting down): I can’t take this, Milo! I can’t right now. I can’t.
MILO: Hey, I’m sorry.
(She puts her head in her hands.)
MILO: Do you remember Justin Meyer in eighth grade? Jock asshole, he used to fuck with me all the time? Dad, he told me, he said guys like Justin, like, high school is the best it’s ever gonna get for them. They’re gonna peak in high school, and then the rest of their life is just gonna be a disappointment. And that kids like me, that I would soar after high school. And in fact, I would sit there, I would fast-forward ten years into the future, and I would think about, y’know, our high school reunion and seeing Justin, and he would just be this fat, balding guy who, y’know, is the assistant manager at some sporting goods store. And I would be this famous actor who lives in L.A. or New York, and I have this beautiful boyfriend, and I’m happy. Do you know I looked Justin up online? And do you know what he’s doing now? He’s an electrician, and he has two beautiful daughters and a pretty wife, and he’s happy. And it turns out that … (wiping his eyes) … it turns out that I’m the one who peaked in high school. You know, if that’s not depressing, then… (he trails off)
MAGGIE: So that’s it, sweetie? You’re not a famous actor? ‘Cause I got news for you. No one’s a famous actor.
MILO: George Clooney’s a famous actor.
MAGGIE: Okay, George Clooney. I guess that’s one exception. But the rest of us are just walking around, trying not to be disappointed with the way our lives turned out. And either we find a way to deal or … I need to know you’re not gonna check out on me.
MILO: I’ll do my best.
This conversation from Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler helps reveal the monster at its center, Lou Bloom, a psychopathic but unfailingly polite videographer who films crime and accident scenes in L.A. and sells his footage to a local TV station, dealing directly with their news director, Nina. Here, with some big successes under his belt, he takes Nina to dinner at a Mexican restaurant and blackmails her sexually while remaining aggravatingly chipper about the whole thing. While he’s not subtle about what he’s doing, he’s damnably effective anyway. Remarkably, this isn’t even the worst behavior that he exhibits in the movie.
NINA: So where are you from, Lou?
LOU: The north end of the Valley. Some of the calls take me over there, but nobody I know still lives out there. You’re from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
NINA: How’d you know that?
LOU: It’s online. Everything about you’s online. Well, not everything, but definitely a lot. I’ve watched all the videos from when you were a reporter. I’m sure you look at those, of course.
NINA (laughing): No, God no. Not without a drink in my hand.
LOU: I watch my work all the time.
NINA: Yeah? Do you want to become a reporter?
NINA: Most of you guys want air time.
LOU: Not me. I want to be the guy who owns the station that owns the camera. The business is going well, but in order to grow to the next level, I need to stay one step ahead of my competition and take risks. I also need financial support to implement expansion. Would you like another margarita?
NINA: One’s enough.
LOU: Thanks for coming out to talk. The place I’m in now is that I want a relationship with someone I can team up with and share like we share the same job and hours and whatnot. I could go into a laundry list, but you get the idea.
NINA: Yes. Well, I hope you find someone.
LOU: Here’s the thing about that, Nina. I’m quite certain I already have.
NINA (nonplussed): Okay. Let me put this politely. I only came out to dinner with you, Lou, purely as a professional courtesy.
LOU: Thank you. ‘Cause I don’t think it’s any secret that I’ve singlehandedly raised the unit price of your ratings book.
NINA (amused and taken aback): Our ratings book price? Whoa!
LOU (smiling): I’m a very fast learner. We had a conversation where I specifically mentioned that. Remember that? Well, do you?
NINA (not smiling): Yes.
LOU: I recently learned, for instance, that most Americans watch local news to stay informed. I also learned that the average half-hour of Los Angeles television news packs all of its local government coverage, including law enforcement, budget, transportation, education, and immigration, into twenty-two seconds. Local crime stories, however, usually not only led the news but filled fourteen times the average broadcast, totaling five minutes seven seconds. KWLA relies heavily on such stories. With Los Angeles crime rates going down, I think that makes items like mine particularly valuable. Like rare animals. (He laughs.) I can only imagine that your needs will increase during next month’s ratings sweeps period.
NINA (fake laughing and fanning herself with her hand): Whoo! Well, we certainly appreciate what you do.
LOU (seriously): There’s certain good things about being alone. (pause) You have time to do the things you want to do, like study and plan, but you can’t have dinners like this or be physical with a person, I mean outside of flirtationship.
NINA (apprehensive): Where are you going with this?
LOU: I want that. (pause) With you. (pause) Like you want to keep your job and your health insurance.
NINA (tough): Look, just for starters, I don’t need you to keep my fucking job.
LOU (slowly): You’re the news director on the vampire shift of the lowest-rated station in Los Angeles. We have what could be considered almost an exclusive relationship. There are many other places I could go. I have to think that you are invested in this transaction.
NINA (disgusted): Wow.
WAITER (arriving with their entrees): There you are. Enjoy.
LOU: Thank you.
(The waiter leaves.)
NINA: Where did you get the balls to even suggest something like this?
LOU (starting to eat): We’re still talking.
NINA: No, there’s nothing more to say.
LOU: You can leave.
NINA (conceding): Okay, look, you’ve done well. Okay? And we pay you well, very well. We always have. If you like, I, I could get you an exclusive retainer. That would be on top of your segment fees. I could maybe even get you a job at the station, starting as a production assistant, so you could learn the business from the inside. That’s where you said your interests lie.
LOU: Mm-hmm. You’re not listening, Nina. I happen to know that you haven’t stayed at one station for more than two years at a time, and you’re coming up on two years soon. I can imagine that your contract is for that length of time and that next month’s ratings directly affect that.
NINA: So you’re threatening that if I don’t…
LOU (interjecting): I’m negotiating.
NINA: You’re threatening to stop selling to me.
LOU: That’s your choice. The true price of any item is what someone is willing to pay for it. You want something, and I want you.
NINA: To fuck you.
LOU: And as a friend.
NINA: Jesus Christ, friends don’t pressure friends to fucking sleep with them.
LOU (shocked): Actually, that’s not true, Nina. ‘Cause as I’m sure you know, a friend is a gift you give yourself.
Here’s the only literary adaptation that makes this post: Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming big-screen version of Inherent Vice, the novel by Thomas Pynchon that’s set in California in 1970. In this scene, weed-smoking private detective Larry “Doc” Sportello has been found unconscious next to a murdered man named Glen Charlock outside an under-construction housing development, who’s connected to the developer and to Doc’s ex-girlfriend. Doc is being interrogated by thuggish LAPD detective Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen, when his lawyer Sauncho Smilax shows up to shut everything down. It’s a nice taste of the shaggy, stoned sense of humor on display in this movie. Note the From Here to Eternity reference that Bigfoot makes.
BIGFOOT: How about your girlfriend, Shasta … Fay … Hepworth?
DOC (saying the name at normal speed): Shasta Fay Hepworth.
BIGFOOT: She is a known intimate of Glen’s employer, Mickey Wolfmann. But do you think that Glen and Shasta were … (making various gross hand signals to indicate sex) … F-U-C-K-I-N-G-E?
DOC (pronouncing the “e”): Fuckinge?
BIGFOOT: Is that why you killed him?
BIGFOOT (still making hand signals): How does that make you feel? Here you are, still carrying a torch, and there she is, in the company of all those Nazi lowlifes.
DOC: Why are you doing that, Bigfoot? You know you’re giving me a hardon.
BIGFOOT: “Tough little wop monkey,” as my friend Fatso Judson always says. So our suspect, that’s you, is having an alleged midday nap so necessary to the hippie lifestyle. Some sort of incident occurs in the vicinity of Channel View Estates, firearms are discharged, when the dust settles, we find one Glen Charlock deceased. But more compellingly for LAPD is the man Charlock was supposed to be guarding, Michael Z. Wolfmann, has vanished, giving local law enforcement less than twenty-four hours before the feds declare it a kidnapping and come in to fuck everything up. So perhaps you can forestall this by providing the names of the other members of your cult.
DOC (in disbelief): Cult?
BIGFOOT: No one would ever be stupid enough to attempt this alone, which suggests some sort of Mansonoid conspiracy. Wouldn’t you agree?
BIGFOOT: Look, I’ve been referred to more than one time by the L.A. Times as “a Renaissance detective.” Okay? Which means I am many things. One thing I am not is stupid, so purely out of noblesse oblige, I extend this assumption to cover you as well. (looking up) What the fuck?
DOC (looking up at Sauncho, who is arriving at Bigfoot’s desk): Hey, Saunch.
SAUNCHO: What’s up, Doc? (to Bigfoot) You know you have no case here. So if you’re gonna charge him, you’d better. Otherwise, you have to let him go.
DOC (ironically): Saunch, remember who you’re talking to. This is Bigfoot Bjornsen, Renaissance cop.
SAUNCHO: I know who he is. (sitting) So what’s the beef here, exactly?
BIGFOOT: It doesn’t have much to do with your specialty, which, as I understand, is marine law.
SAUNCHO: We got plenty of crime on the high seas, Lieutenant.
BIGFOOT: Well, so far, we have murder and kidnapping. We can work in pirates, if it would make you more comfortable. Either way, it’s high-profile.
SAUNCHO: Yeah, but given your history of harrassment of my client, this’ll never make it to trial.
BIGFOOT: No, I think we could probably take this all the way to trial, but with our luck, the jury pool would probably be ninety-nine percent hippie.
SAUNCHO: Unless you change the venue to, like, Orange County. Not many hippies down there, you know?
DOC: Saunch, who are you working for?
SAUNCHO: Clients pay me for work, Doc. Clients pay me for work, Doc. (to Bigfoot) So?
BIGFOOT: I’ve decided I’m going to kick Mr. Sportello.
SAUNCHO: You’re gonna kick him? That’s assault.
DOC: I think it’s police slang, Saunch. It means cut me loose.
BIGFOOT: I’ll release the suspect at the impound garage.
BIGFOOT (staring him down): I promise.
I’m ending with this climactic monologue from Obvious Child, by Gillian Robespierre based on her own short film. Here, a Jewish stand-up comedienne who has been knocked up by a relative stranger comes clean to a comedy-club audience (which includes that man, Max) about what she plans to do. Her nervous repetitions give you a sense of how much it takes for her to step out on stage and reveal this much of her life, and it’s as compelling as anything I saw in 2014’s movies. Before she starts speaking, Donna, who has been psyching herself up for the set by drinking glass after glass of seltzer, accidentally burps into the microphone.
DONNA: You guys like my singing voice? I just burped into this because I’m an adult woman. Um, I do like being an adult woman. I’ve always wanted to be that. I like, I’ve always wanted to have, like, a bra and a blouse and a schedule. (light laughter from audience) Like, where I could just be in my house and be like, “Oh my God, I’m running late!”
(Max comes into the club and stands up in the back.)
DONNA: Like, I just always wanted to be on the car phone and be like, (miming talking into a phone) “Okay, Susan, will do! Huh, what? Okay, right! Talk soon!” And then just hang up and not worry about, y’know, like, why the bathroom smells in a weird way. (more audience laughter) But I’m not here to talk about car phones. I came here tonight on a very different mission, and that is to, um, say to you that …
(She sees Max.)
DONNA: … sorry, to say to you that I am pregnant. (silence from crowd) Ooooh! Oooh! All right, testing the waters. I dropped that one down. Uh, the second thing that I would like to say right now, out loud, and I’m gonna say it out loud, right now, out loud, everything is fine, just rollin’ along with this, out loud, right now, um, is that I am going to have an abortion — okay, okay, keep breathin’ — uh, tomorrow. Which is Valentine’s Day.
(She laughs. Max is stunned.)
DONNA: So we’ll start from there. I’m sure you’re wondering, uh, how this happened. Uh, little thing I like to call “getting banged out.” In the middle of the night, the hee, hee, heat of the night. (looking at Max) Um, by a very nice person, um, that I don’t know very well. I don’t know, he was a stranger, but a very nice one. Probably the best of all the strangers that are out there. (to audience) And of course, you guys aren’t strangers any more, because now you are a part of my life in a big way. (some laughs) So I don’t know if, uh, you’ve gleaned that maybe I’m not ready to be a mom. “No shit, you are not ready to be a mom.” So I, um, decided to get the abortion. I really do love pregnant ladies, and there’s lots of things about being a mom that seem fun, but for me, it’s just like, I can’t tell anyone to shut off the TV. (laughs from crowd) Equaling I can’t shut off the TV. Um, I decided to tell my mom, and I thought she was gonna be, like, y’know, super-upset and like, set me on fire and say, “You can never come back to the synagogue!” Which is also kind of a fantasy, that I never have to go back to the synagogue. Ugh, so boring. Everyone’s breath is horrible. But instead she was like, she was very relieved and she actually ended up telling me that she herself had gotten an abortion in the ‘60s, which is pretty amazing because bushes were so big then (laughs from audience) that, y’know, that they, y’know, must have really had to hunt for it. (more laughs) And I can say that, because, y’know, you get an abortion, you can reveal who else has had them. So excited to be on the list of the very many women that have done this.
(Max looks uncomfortable.)
DONNA: Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and, uh, I can honestly say that it’s not gonna be the worst Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had. (she and the audience laugh) It’s gonna be okay, because I know, I know that I’m not alone. I’m totally here, you guys are here, you’re all gonna come with me tomorrow. But it’s gonna be … (she sees Max leaving) um, um, I think it’s gonna be okay. And afterwards, uh, I’ll just be in my future and, uh, y’know, we’ll go from there. Um, that’s really it. You guys have been really generous to me tonight and I’ve really enjoyed myself, so, um, thank you and happy V-Day. I hope you get the candy that you want and deserve.