This is my annual post about the year’s best movie dialogue, and 2015 brought so much good writing that I couldn’t find room for such well-scripted movies as Spotlight, The Hateful Eight, 45 Years, The Martian, Queen of Earth, or Brooklyn. (I was trying to keep this post to 10 snippets of dialogue and also acknowledge some writers who weren’t white guys.) As always, the dialogue here is reproduced as it was on the screen, rather than from shooting scripts. The stage directions are mine. And as always, WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE AHEAD.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bridge of Spies, but it did have some nice exchanges like this one, in which Jim Donovan tries to intervene on behalf of his convicted Soviet spy client by visiting Judge Mortimer Byers at his home before the sentencing hearing. The script is by Mark Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen. Donovan’s rolling cadences fit not only the 1950s setting but also the character who reasons out everything he says.
DONOVAN: Your Honor.
BYERS (adjusting his bowtie in a mirror): Hello, Jim. Just going out. I have a few minutes, though. March of Dimes thing. Millie is active.
DONOVAN: Well, thank you for seeing me. I, I just wanted to give you my two cents on the sentencing, and I thought maybe I should pester you at home, as not all of my points are narrowly legal.
BYERS: Yeah, well, it’s that kinda case. Hope I wasn’t too scratchy during the trial, but it’s exactly what you say. Nothing about this is narrowly legal.
(He yanks off his tie in frustration and takes up his Scotch.)
BYERS: There are bigger issues. Bigger issues!
(He goes into the next room to another mirror and starts on the tie again, handing his Scotch to Donovan. Millie comes in to give Donovan his own Scotch.)
DONOVAN: Um, sir, I think it could be considered in the best interests of the United States that Abel remain alive.
BYERS (turning to look at him): Why? I’m not saying I’ve made up my mind, but if he was gonna cooperate, work with the government, he would’ve done it already.
DONOVAN: True, but the issue here…
BYERS (holding up his hand to cut him off): Excuse me. (taking his Scotch from Donovan and moving to a third mirror) You can’t say it’s in the best interests of the United States that he spend the rest of his days in a prison cell. How is this the national interest?
DONOVAN: Not the incarceration itself, sir. It is possible that in the foreseeable future, an American of equivalent rank might be captured by Soviet Russia. (The judge grunts skeptically.) We might want to have someone to trade.
BYERS: Wow, that sounds like spinning what ifs. You could do that till the cows come home.
DONOVAN: It’s my business, what ifs. I’m in insurance, and there’s nothing implausible about this one. It’s entirely in the realm of what could happen. It’s the kind of probability that people buy insurance for. If we send this guy to his death, we leave ourselves wide open. No policy in our back pocket for the day the storm comes.
BYERS: Nice speech.
DONOVAN: Well, sir, there is also the humanitarian argument. Should he die for doing the job they sent him to do?
BYERS: All right, Counselor. (takes one last sip of his Scotch) I gotta run. Good seeing you, Jim.
Emma Donoghue adapted Room from her own novel, and this first-time screenwriter did splendid work like this scene where Ma first tries to convince her 5-year-old son about the reality of the world outside the garden shed where they’re imprisoned. Writing for such young children is harder than it looks, and Donoghue pulls it off.
MA: Hey, Jack, do you remember Mouse?
MA: Yeah. You know where he is?
(Jack shakes his head.)
MA: I do. He’s on the other side of this wall.
JACK: What other side?
MA: Jack, there’s two sides to everything.
JACK: Not in an octagon.
MA (caught by surprise): Yeah, but…
JACK: An octagon has eight sides.
MA: But a wall, okay? A wall’s like this. (She holds up her hand.) See, we’re on the inside, and the mouse is on the outside.
JACK: In outer space?
MA: No, in the world. Much closer than outer space.
JACK: I can’t see the outside side.
MA: Listen, I know I told you something else before, but you were much, much younger. I didn’t think you could understand, but now you’re so old, you’re so smart, I know you can get this.
(Jack shakes his head.)
MA: Where do you think that Old Nick gets our food?
JACK: From TV by magic.
MA: There is no magic. What you see on TV, those are pictures of real things, real people. It’s real stuff.
JACK: Dora’s real for real?
MA: No, that’s a drawing. Dora is a drawing. Other people have faces like us. Those are pictures of real things. And all the other stuff you see on there, that’s real, too. That’s real oceans, real trees, real cats.
JACK: No way! Where would they all fit?
MA: They just do. They just fit. They just fit out in the world. Jack, come on. You’re so smart. I know you’ve been wondering about this.
JACK: Can I have something else to eat?
(Ma looks up at the skylight in frustration. Then she spots something.)
MA: There’s a leaf! Do you see that?
JACK: I don’t see a leaf.
MA (coming around to the other side of the table): Here, why don’t you see?
(She hoists Jack up as close to the skylight as she can.)
MA: Get a closer look. See that? See?
JACK: Dummo, Ma! That’s not a leaf! Leafs are green!
MA: Yeah, on trees, but then they fall and they rot like salad in the fridge!
JACK: Where’s all the stuff you said? Trees and dogs and cats and grass!
MA (putting him down): We can’t see it from here because Skylight looks upwards instead of sideways.
JACK: You’re just tricking me!
MA: No, I’m not.
JACK (yelling): Liar, liar, pants on fire!
MA (quickly, desperately): Jack, I couldn’t explain it before because you were too small to understand, so I had to make up a story, but now I’m doing the opposite. Okay? I’m doing the opposite and I am unlying because you’re five now. You’re five and you’re old enough to understand what the world is. You have to understand. You have to understand! We can’t keep living like this! You have to help me!
JACK (sad): I wanna be four again.
Alex Garland is an experienced novelist and screenwriter, so it makes sense that his Ex Machina (which is also his directing debut) would have good dialogue. In this conversation, the young programmer Caleb has met the realistic female robot created by the tech guru Nathan and is asking the latter why she seems to be flirting with him.
CALEB: I got a question.
CALEB: Why did you give her sexuality? An AI doesn’t need a gender. She could have been a gray box.
NATHAN: Hmm, actually, I don’t think that’s true. Can you give an example of consciousness at any level, human or animal, that exists without a sexual dimension?
CALEB: They have sexuality as an evolutionary reproductive need.
NATHAN: What imperative does a gray box have to interact with another gray box? Can consciousness exist without interaction? Anyway, sexuality is fun, man. If you’re gonna exist, why not enjoy it? What? You want to remove the chance of her falling in love and fucking?
(Caleb doesn’t answer.)
NATHAN: And in answer to your real question, you bet she can fuck.
NATHAN: In between her legs, there’s an opening with a concentration of sensors. You engage them in the right way, creates a pleasure response. So if you wanted to screw her, mechanically speaking, you could, and she’d enjoy it.
CALEB: That wasn’t my real question.
NATHAN: Oh, okay. Sorry.
CALEB: My real question was, did you give her sexuality as a diversion tactic?
NATHAN: I don’t follow.
CALEB: Like a stage magician with a hot assistant.
NATHAN: So, a hot robot who clouds your ability to judge her AI?
CALEB: Exactly. So, did you program her to flirt with me?
NATHAN: If I did, would that be cheating?
CALEB: Wouldn’t it?
NATHAN: Caleb, what’s your type?
CALEB: Of girl?
NATHAN: No, of salad dressing. Yeah, of girl. What’s your type of girl? You know what? Don’t even answer that. Let’s say it’s black chicks. Okay, that’s your thing. For the sake of argument, that’s your thing, okay? Why is that your thing? Because you did a detailed analysis of all racial types and you cross-referenced that analysis with a points-based system? No! You’re just attracted to black chicks. A consequence of accumulated external stimuli that you probably didn’t even register as they registered with you.
CALEB: Did you program her to like me or not?
NATHAN: I programmed her to be heterosexual, just like you were programmed to be heterosexual.
CALEB: Nobody programmed me to be straight.
NATHAN: You decided to be straight? Please! Of course you were programmed by nature or nurture or both. And to be honest, Caleb, you’re starting to annoy me now, because this is your insecurity talking. This is not your intellect.
Switching gears now, Amy Schumer made an assured screenwriting debut in Trainwreck, playing a bed-hopping, drug-abusing version of herself. In this exchange, she and the bodybuilder she’s dating are going home from the movies, where she went outside to smoke a joint, and he found pictures of other guys’ penises on her phone.
AMY: Steven, please, I am not in shape for this. Stop walking like the Hulk. I can see that you’re mad. You are being crazy!
STEVEN: Am I? Because I think you owe me an explanation for this. Do I have to worry about you with other guys?
AMY: I’m so high right now. Can we just please talk about this tomorrow? I’m too fucked up.
STEVEN: Amy, you’re always fucked up. Answer the question. Are you hooking up with other guys?
AMY: We never said we were exclusive.
STEVEN: Fuck, Amy! Exclusive? It’s not high school! You know, every single guy I work out with, every single guy says that all you’re gonna do is mess with my emotions and hurt me.
AMY: You guys talk about that at the gym?
STEVEN: Fuck, Amy! Do I have to worry about you with other guys?
AMY (pause): Yes, I hook up with other guys.
(Steven groans and sits down on the stoop. She sits down beside him.)
AMY: I don’t go to the movies with them. That’s, like, our special thing.
STEVEN: This is so fucking stupid. You know what the sad part is? I was gonna ask you to marry me.
AMY (shocked): Really? I didn’t even think you liked me very much. Why are you making me feel bad about this? You can sleep with other girls. It’s, like, every guy’s dream.
STEVEN: It’s not this guy’s dream. Yeah, this guy’s got a dream, and it’s us making it! Getting married, moving out to the countryside, having a family. Three boys and two … (pause) … more boys. Enough for a basketball team. And I’ll develop a CrossFit program and patent it. And I’ll rule the CrossFit world, with you by my side. You can be my CrossFit queen. That’s my dream!
AMY (softly, putting a hand on his back): Hey. Hey, can I leave? Or, like, can you leave? I just, like, I’m very high, and I just kinda need this interaction to be over.
STEVEN: Are you serious? Fuck you, Amy! You are not nice.
AMY: I’m totally nice.
I have too many two-character conversations in this post, so I’m including this bit from Diablo Cody’s Ricki and the Flash, where the title character is taken by her ex-husband Pete to a nice restaurant to meet her estranged sons Josh and Adam, as well as Josh’s fiancée Emily. Ricki’s troubled daughter Julie fires the first shot here, and just try keeping track of all the lines of fire.
EMILY: So, um, how is Maureen’s father doing?
PETE: Oh, not well at all. No, the disease is progressing a little more rapidly than they’d anticipated.
RICKI (to Emily): So you’ve met Maureen?
EMILY: Yeah, lots of times. Mo’s great.
EMILY: Yeah, she’s…
JOSH (bailing her out): Emily and I have been together for almost two years. She’s met the whole family.
(Ricki laughs derisively.)
JULIE (sullenly): Em, why aren’t you wearing your ring? (pause) Your engagement ring.
RICKI (to Josh and Emily): You two are engaged?
JULIE: Josh got Emily this huge conflict-free diamond. He proposed at the lake. We were all there. It was beyond gay.
PETE (nervous): It was lovely. It was lovely.
RICKI: I’m so happy for you! So happy for you, honey.
JOSH: Thank you.
RICKI: Why didn’t you tell me?
JOSH: Well, we, uh, we wanted to keep things quiet for a while, so we could, um, enjoy the news privately.
RICKI: Oh! But Julie said everybody was at the proposal. Did this just happen?
EMILY: Yeah, yeah.
PETE: Of course.
JULIE: No, no. It was July Fourth. So that was months, months ago.
ADAM (to Julie): Okay, we all know you’re going through something, but you’re acting cray-cray.
JOSH (to Ricki): We were planning on telling you tonight in person.
EMILY (to Ricki): Because I hadn’t met you, and…
JULIE: Why don’t you be honest, Josh, and tell Mom that you don’t want her at the wedding?
ADAM (covering his eyes): Oh, my God.
WAITER (arriving simultaneously): Would you be interested in hearing about our appetizer specials?
EMILY (to the waiter): Yes.
JOSH (to Ricki): No. We’re practically eloping, Mom.
EMILY (to Ricki): Yeah, it’s gonna be very small, very green.
JOSH (pointedly): Yeah, it’s not gonna be a big, formal wedding like the one Julie had.
JULIE (angry): Thanks for referencing that!
JOSH: Yeah, well, thanks for this!
JULIE: I’m still having Ambien shits, Josh, from my suicide attempt. Do you really wanna talk about my wedding?
RICKI (simultaneously, to Josh): Hey, hey, it’s okay. Go ahead. You know, it won’t hurt my feelings if you decide to elope. Your Dad and I eloped. It was great.
PETE (genuinely): Yes, it was.
RICKI: Yeah, So anyway, this is wonderful, wonderful news.
JOSH: Thank you.
RICKI: Wonderful. Hey Adam, when are you gonna settle down and get married?
PETE: Who wants some appetizers? Anyone?
ADAM: Well, Mom, I’m gay, as you know.
PETE (simultaneously, to Ricki): You used to love the carpaccio. Can we get one for each?
ADAM: And unfortunately, many of my fellow gay men still can’t get married.
RICKI: Well, I didn’t mean to a man necessarily.
ADAM: Who would I marry, then?
RICKI: Well, I thought you were bisexual.
ADAM: That was my cover story in college, like, ten years ago.
PETE (to the waiter): Two pomme frites, please, and one order of carpaccio. I’m starving.
ADAM (to Ricki): I’m really sorry that you didn’t stay updated on my sexuality, but then again, you didn’t stay updated on much of anything. Am I right, guys?
RICKI: Okay, okay. Now that I know that you decided to say you’re completely gay…
ADAM: Decided? You are such a homophobe!
RICKI: …I won’t ask about it again!
ADAM: See? This is what she does. She costumes herself as this edgy rocker who’s cooler than all the other PTA moms when in fact, she voted for George W. Bush twice.
RICKI: Yeah, I support our troops.
ADAM: And I’m the one with the questionable lifestyle, right? Huh? Meanwhile, she’s running around California calling herself Ricki.
RICKI: Well, that’s a name, not a lifestyle.
ADAM: I was born gay.
RICKI: I was born Ricki.
JULIE (laughing): This shit-show is making my day!
ADAM (to Julie): Is this whole thing just, like, a plea for attention as per usual or are you actually a psychotic bitch?
RICKI (slamming her hand down on the table): Hey, don’t you dare call your sister psychotic!
(Everyone in the restaurant stops talking to stare.)
ADAM: Oh my God, she’s parenting. Someone get a camera.
Rick Famuyiwa crafted the year’s deftest farce in Dope. In this bit, Malcolm went to the birthday party for drug dealer Dom the previous night, only to flee when shooting broke out. The next day, he and his friends Jib and Diggy discover that his backpack has been stuffed with at least 20 kilos of molly, a gun, and a phone. A mysterious and cleverly unpredictable person calls Malcolm on the phone.
VOICE: Who the fuck is this?
MALCOLM: Um, who is this?
VOICE: This the nigga that’s gonna fuck you up, you keep askin’ questions. Now, who the fuck is this?
(Jib and Diggy silently motion at Malcolm not to give his name.)
MALCOLM (unsteadily): I prefer not to say.
VOICE: Okay, I see how we gonna do this, then. (angrily) If this ain’t a nigga named Malcolm at Yukon and 104th Street, then I’m gonna kill yo ass.
MALCOLM (afraid): How do you know where I am?
VOICE: Find iPhone. Steve Jobs a motherfuckin’ genius.
MALCOLM: Oh, shit.
VOICE: Now if this a nigga named Malcolm, say, “Damn right.” Otherwise, click click boom!
MALCOLM: Damn right. Damn right, my name is Malcolm.
VOICE: Malcolm. (suddenly friendly) Malcolm! How you feelin’, man? Dom told me there was a mix-up. You accidentally took my lunch. That true?
MALCOLM: Took your lunch?
VOICE: Yeah, my lunch. A nigga hungry.
MALCOLM (understanding): Yes, yes, I, yeah. Uh huh. Baloney sandwich. Mmm-hmm.
VOICE: Baloney. It got cheese on it?
MALCOLM: Yeah, mmm-hmmm.
VOICE (suddenly threatening): We talkin’ about the same sandwich, nigga? ‘Cause I ain’t ask for no cheese. I find that my fuckin’ sandwich got cheese on it, I’m gon’ kill yo ass.
MALCOLM (stuttering): I don’t know! You just, y’know, there’s a bag, and…
VOICE (laughing): What? What? You’re the one wanted to get all cute, talkin’ ‘bout baloney sandwiches and shit. I just asked you if you had my lunch.
MALCOLM (calming down): Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. You’re right. Your lunch. It’s right here. I’m looking at it right now.
VOICE: Coolio. Now, after school, you’re gon’ see a red El Camino parked and this handsome-ass nigga inside. That ain’t Lance Gross, nigga. That’s yours truly. Just walk up, hand me the baloney sandwich, and be on your way. You have a nice, happy, productive life with a hell of a story to tell. You got it?
MALCOLM: Yeah, yeah, I got it.
The Steve Jobs shout-out in the last item is a nice segue into Steve Jobs, written by Aaron Sorkin. Here, Steve is backstage before the Macintosh product launch, holding a whispered conversation with Apple CEO John Sculley as he pours a 1955 Château Margaux for the two of them. This talk, which covers adoption and Bob Dylan, is one of many from the movie that I could have picked.
STEVE (looking out at the crowd): It was a bad idea to have Markkula open doing quarterly reports. Instead, we should have just dropped water on the audience. Just big ten thousand-gallon tanks of cold water dropped from the ceiling. Saved Mike some money on index cards.
JOHN (pouring the wine): Oh, just relax.
JOHN: I don’t know. No one’s ever asked me that question. (handing Steve a glass) There you go.
(They clink glasses and drink.)
STEVE: You’re the only one who sees the world the same way I do.
JOHN: No one sees the world the same way you do.
STEVE: I’m like Julius Caesar, John. I’m surrounded by enemies.
JOHN: No, you’re not!
STEVE: The board.
JOHN: Oh, the board! The board’s behind you!
STEVE: Only because you see to it they are.
JOHN (ironic): Well, I think it’s a good board, but if you want me to push ‘em out one by one, we can talk about that.
STEVE: I want you to push ‘em out all at once. Through a window, if it’s the nearest exit. The look on their faces when we showed them the spot!
JOHN: I couldn’t see their faces, ‘cause they were banging their heads on the table.
STEVE: Yeah. Yesterday, the day after it airs once, the publisher of Ad Week calls it the best commercial of all time. Of all time! And it is! If anyone does one better, it’s going to be Chiat/Day, who the board wanted to replace, and it’s gonna be Lee Clow, who the board thought was out of his mind.
(He points up at the screen where the “1984” spot is playing to wild applause.)
JOHN: Did we use skinheads as extras? A couple of people have told me that.
JOHN: We paid skinheads? I’ve got skinheads on my payroll?
STEVE: They had the look we wanted.
JOHN: The skinheads?
JOHN: Let’s keep that to ourselves. Who else knows?
STEVE: Knows what?
JOHN: That we paid terrorists to be in our TV commercial?
STEVE: John! Quit worrying about the ad.
JOHN: But they’re a good board. Good people.
STEVE: The only problem, the problem is that they’re people. People. The very nature of people is something to be overcome.
JOHN: When I was running Pepsi, we had a lot of success focusing on 18-to-55-year-olds who weren’t members of violent hate groups.
STEVE: I get it.
JOHN: You’re not surrounded by enemies. We’re almost there.
STEVE: Back and forth with the Dylan. I might quote a different verse.
JOHN: What are the choices?
STEVE: “For the loser now will be later to win,” which is what we have. Or “Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, / Don’t criticize what you can’t understand. / Your sons and your daughters…”
JOHN (finishing the quote): “…Are beyond your command.” I just lost a hundred bucks to Andy Hertzfeld. He said you’d change it to that verse. We got forty-five seconds. I want to use it to ask you a question. Why do people who were adopted always feel rejected instead of selected?
STEVE: That came outta nowhere.
JOHN: “Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command, / Your old road is rapidly aging.” So go fuck yourself, ‘cause my name is Steve Jobs, and the times they are a-changing.
STEVE: I don’t feel rejected.
JOHN: You’re sure?
STEVE: Very sure.
JOHN: Because it’s not like the baby is born, the parents look and say, “Nah, not interested in this one.” On the other hand, someone did choose you.
STEVE (looking down at the monitor): It’s having no control. Finding out you were out of the loop when the most crucial events of your life were set in motion. As long as you have control. I don’t understand people who give it up. (looking up at John) What inspired Hertzfeld to make that bet?
JOHN: He was warning me that being your father figure could be dangerous.
STEVE: Keep your hundred bucks. I’m sticking with the first verse.
Sticking with Apple products, iPhones figure into this scene from Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, in which Brooklyn married couple Josh and Cornelia meet their new-parent old friends Fletcher and Marina in a restaurant and excitedly discuss their new friends. This is typical of the comedy’s sophisticated wit.
FLETCHER: We have news. I decided, with Marina going back to work, I’m going to take a leave of absence from the firm and take care of Willow.
JOSH AND CORNELIA (surprised): Oh!
JOSH: Cool! How long?
MARINA: It’s such a load off, and I’m making enough, so…
FLETCHER: Hey, it’s really just my ego at stake.
JOSH: Time to re-watch Mr. Mom.
FLETCHER: I already Netflixed it. I got some laughs.
MARINA: We’re the boring couple with the baby. What have you guys been doing? Tell us something fun.
JOSH: Oh, we met this interesting couple, Jamie and Darby. He’s a young documentarian and she makes ice cream.
CORNELIA: I don’t know what to make of them, honestly. I like her.
JOSH: They make everything! It’s infectious. For about twelve hours, I thought I could build my own desk.
CORNELIA: There’s something about being around them that energizes you, y’know?
MARINA: How old are they?
CORNELIA: Twenty-six? Twenty-seven?
JOSH (simultaneously): Twenty-five, twenty-six?
MARINA: They’re children!
FLETCHER: Yeah, nine years ago, they couldn’t vote.
CORNELIA: But they’re married!
FLETCHER (confused): Why?
JOSH: You should see this guy’s record collection. It’s Jay-Z, it’s Thin Lizzy, it’s Mozart. His taste is democratic. It’s The Goonies and it’s Citizen Kane. They don’t distinguish between high and low. It’s wonderful.
FLETCHER: When did The Goonies become a good movie?
JOSH: Well, you should hear this guy talk about it.
CORNELIA: And it’s like their apartment is full of everything we once threw out, but it looks so good the way they have it.
JOSH: Who directed The Goonies? I’ll look it up.
(He starts typing on his phone. Marina and Cornelia do the same on theirs.)
FLETCHER: Why is it that when one person picks up their phone, everybody else has to?
MARINA: I just have a quick thing.
CORNELIA (staring at her phone): I’m not on my phone.
MARINA: The baby.
JOSH: Richard Donner.
FLETCHER: Each of us is so certain that we’ve got the most important thing to do right now.
CORNELIA: I know, it’s so rude.
FLETCHER: Not anymore. It used to be, but now it’s accepted. It’s like showing your ankles in the 1800s.
Here’s a discussion of TV watching habits, set in 1996, between the author David Foster Wallace and the journalist David Lipsky, who’s interviewing him with a tape recorder. It’s from The End of the Tour, which was adapted by Donald Margulies from Lipsky’s book. As elsewhere in the movie, the loneliness that plagues Wallace comes to the surface here. I wonder what the celebrated author and TV junkie would have made of binge-watching.
WALLACE: I think if the book is about anything, it’s about the question of, “Why? Why am I watching all this shit?” It’s not about the shit.
WALLACE: It’s about me. So why am I doing it and what’s so American about what I’m doing? (they enter the house) You know, the minute I start talking about this stuff, it sounds, Number One, very vague, and Number Two, really reductive.
LIPSKY: No, no, I don’t think you’re being vague or reductive at all.
WALLACE (putting groceries into the refrigerator): Good, because, I don’t have, like, a diagnosis or a system of prescriptions about why we, and when I say “we,” I mean people just like you and me. Mostly white, upper-middle-class, obscenely well-educated, doing really interesting jobs, sittin’ in really expensive chairs, watching the best, most sophisticated electronic equipment money can buy. Why do we feel so empty and unhappy?
LIPSKY (eating licorice): No, you’re right. It’s like Hamlet with channel-surfing.
WALLACE (sitting in a chair opposite): I’m not saying that watching TV is bad or a waste of your time any more than, like, masturbation is bad or a waste of your time. It’s a pleasurable way to spend a few minutes, but if you’re doing it, like, twenty times a day, if your primary sexual relationship is with your own hand, something is wrong.
LIPSKY: Yeah, but at least with masturbation, y’know, at least some action is being performed. Isn’t that better?
WALLACE: Okay, you can make me look like a real dick if you print this…
LIPSKY (lightly): No, no, I’m not going to, but if you can, please speak into the mike.
WALLACE: Yes, you’re performing muscular movements with your hand as you’re jerking off, but what you’re really doing, I think, is that you’re, you’re running a movie in your head.
WALLACE: You’re having a fantasy relationship with somebody who is not real, strictly to stimulate a neurological response. So, look, as the internet grows in the next ten, fifteen years and virtual-reality pornography becomes a reality, we’re gonna have to develop some real machinery inside our guts to turn off pure unalloyed pleasure or, I don’t know about you, I’m gonna have to leave the planet.
WALLACE: ‘Cause the technology is just gonna get better and better, and it’s gonna get easier and easier and more convenient and more and more pleasurable to sit alone with images on a screen given to us by people who do not love us but want our money. And that’s fine in low doses. But if it’s the basic main staple of your diet, you’re gonna die.
LIPSKY: Well, come on.
WALLACE (seriously): In a very meaningful way, you’re going to die.
Phyllis Nagy met Patricia Highsmith late in the latter’s life and spent more than 20 years trying to bring the latter’s novel The Price of Salt to the big screen. It couldn’t have been fun waiting that long, but perhaps it gave her time to get the resulting film, Carol, right. This late scene is not in the book; the title character is an upper-class housewife in the process of divorcing her husband, Harge, who now wants sole custody of their daughter because of his wife’s lesbian affair. Before things can break out into all-out war, Carol heads it off.
JERRY: We expect, given the seriousness of the charges and the incontestability of the evidence, that the court will grant sole custody of the child to my client.
FRED: Not so fast, Jerry. My client’s psychotherapist is perfectly satisfied with her recovery from the events of the winter, asserting she is more than capable of caring for her own child. She’s had no further contact with the, the girl in question, and we have sworn depositions from two Saddlebrook Institute psychiatrists clearly stating that in their opinions, a series of events precipitated by my client’s husband drove her to suffer an emotional break that resulted in the presumed aberrant behavior.
HARGE (furious): That’s absurd!
FRED: Furthermore, given how these tapes were obtained …
JERRY (talking over him): All right, Fred, if this is how you’re gonna handle this…
FRED (continuing): … and recorded, we’re confident of their inadmissibility.
CAROL: Fred, please don’t.
JERRY: All right, first off, Fred, I want to see these depositions, and secondly, I…
CAROL (cutting in): May I speak?
(Everyone is quiet.)
CAROL: I won’t deny the truth of what’s contained in those tapes.
FRED (to stenographer): This is off the record, honey.
CAROL: May as well be on the record. Harge, I want you to be happy. I didn’t give you that. I, I failed you. I mean, we both could have given more, but we gave each other Rindy. And that is the most breathtaking, the most generous of gifts. So why are we spending so much time trying to keep her from each other? Now what happened with Therese, I wanted, and I will not deny it or say that I … (trails off) But I do regret and I grieve for the mess we are about to make of our child’s life. We, Harge, are both responsible. (faltering) And I think we should set it right. (pause) Now, I think that Harge should have custody of Rindy.
FRED: Could I suggest that we just take a break for a moment?
JERRY: No, Fred, your client has the right to …
CAROL (simultaneously): No, Fred, you have to let me speak, because if you don’t, I will not be able to cope. Now, I am no martyr. I have no clue what is best for me. But I do know, and I feel it in my bones, what is best for my daughter. Now, I want visits with her, Harge. I don’t care if they’re supervised. I just want them to be regular. (getting up from the table and putting on her coat) Now, there was a time when I would have done almost anything. I would have locked myself away to keep Rindy with me. But what use am I to her, to us, if I’m living against my own grain? So that’s the deal. I won’t, I cannot negotiate any more. You take it or leave it. But if you leave it, we go to court. And if we go to court, it’ll get ugly. (breaking down). And we’re not ugly people, Harge.