One of the world’s most popular screenwriting books , Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat has brought clarity and a sense of direction to thousands of screenwriters, who were looking for the logical extension of Syd Field’s work.
If you’re not familiar with it the book delivered a structural roadmap to writers: not quite join-the-dots, but in some ways, close.
With fully 15 story beats to hit over 90-120 pages Save the Cat gave writers both a pathway through those tricky narrative woods and a way to quickly flesh out the stories worth developing to full screenplay stage.
But how well do the theories hold up?
In Blake’s 2nd book, Save the Cat Goes to The Movies, he attempted to firm up and solidify his thesis, by analyzing various classic films. And whilst this analysis proved for the most part effective, the doubters (largely, let’s face it, from the independent-slash-art-house sector of the industry) remain…
So whilst Snyder’s greatest gift to screenwriters probably remains the pithy maxim “give me the same, just different”, here at Industrial Scripts we thought we’d really stress test the theories, against a range of films of varying quality.
“The pithy ‘give me the same…just different‘ remains arguably Snyder’s greatest gift to screenwriters…”
If you’d like to view all the articles in our Save the Cat Analysis Series please do so at the link, and simply read on for the next instalment in the series!
Save the Cat Analysis Series #2: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS
FILM: DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (1988)
STORY TYPE: “Buddy Love”
NOTES: Overall, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS is a film which doesn’t conform to the Snyder theories as much as one might think. The main reason for this is that although the pacing is good, it is ultimately one long wrestling match between the two central characters. One gets the upper hand, then another gets the upper hand. Repeat as required seems to have been the filmmakers’ mantra, and it’s an effective one, but not one that would particularly endorse the film to Snyder. Some moments, such as the Theme Stated, Set-Up, Break Into Act Two, Fun and Games and Midpoint are generally in keeping with Snyder’s theories, but predictably it’s the troublesome latter beats that bear little resemblance to Snyder’s definition of them. A solid comedy overall though, with the “arm wrestle” structure proving effective here.
- Opening image: the back of a woman’s neck, undoing a pearl necklace around it.
- “Your highness”, says the woman to an unknown man, “please allow me to make this little contribution”. “No I cannot accept them”, the man replies. “But think of what these could do for your cause”, she retorts. “Even though I know these pearls would mean freedom for many of my people”, she says, “I will not take them”. Finally, he agrees to accept the pearls “on behalf of the children” of his country. Music kicks in as the man takes the woman’s hand, and the camera pans up and out of the balcony, to reveal an idyllic scene of a port at night.
- Credits roll over this port scene.
- A high class casino, in France. We meet LAWRENCE JAMIESON (Michael Caine), wearing a tuxedo, with his back to us. A man approaches and tells Lawrence: “she’s the blonde in the blue sequin dress, extremely rich, very married, eminently corruptible and a willing infidel”. “Perfect”, says Lawrence, before moving away.
- Lawrence takes his place at the table beside the woman in the blue dress. They both place a bet on the same number, and they both lose. Lawrence then takes off his ring, and addresses INSPECTOR ANDRE (Anton Rodgers) – the man from a moment ago – and asks him if he can sell it for him. “Not the royal ring your highness”, says Andre, so that the woman in blue (who’s earwigging), can hear. “Sssh, do you want the whole world to know?” asks Lawrence, as he gets up and leaves the table.
- The woman in blue follows them outside, and asks Andre if Lawrence really is royalty. Andre replies: “no madam”, but she persists and bribes him using some casino chips. “You can trust me”, she says, “I won’t tell”. “Madame I am the police chief of Gaumont-sur-Mere”, says Andre, “what makes you Americans think you can buy anyone at any price?” The woman responds by offering him even more, and he hushes her over to the corner, away from “the prince”, who is standing by the balcony. “He sounded like he was in trouble”, says the woman, “perhaps I can help”. “If you really want to help”, Andre replies, “forget everything you have seen and heard…forget the very existence of the brilliant, extraordinary man of destiny”. The woman gazes over at Lawrence, staring up at the stars. She totters over to him and says “don’t be alarmed, I can be trusted”. “Are you one of my subjects?” asks Lawrence, and she replies that she isn’t – her name is FANNY EUBANKS (Barbara Harris) and she’s an American. She offers her help but he says that he can’t accept and tells her that she’s “already risked too much even in speaking to me”. He pushes her over to the bushes, and tells her that he has “powerful enemies, who may even be watching as they speak”. He then tells her that she’s very attractive, and then says that he has to leave. He jumps off the balcony into the bushes and runs away. Fanny asks Andre where “the prince” lives, and Andre tells her that the prince has been a widower for five years. Her eyes widen in excitement…
- Cut to Fanny giving Lawrence a beautiful piece of jewellery. “The freedom fighters thank you”, says Lawrence…
- Cut to the next morning, and Lawrence dolling out bundles of cash to Andre and another man. Lawrence says that it’s time to go to Zurich.
- Shots of Lawrence arriving in Zurich: opening his briefcase to a bank manager, and then going to the station and getting on a train, where he goes into the same carriage as FREDDY BENSON (Steve Martin). Freddy asks if he can sit opposite a woman on her own, and she agrees to this. Freddy takes a look at the menu, complains about the high prices, and then just orders some water. “Only water? But you seem so hungry”, says the woman, and Freddy explains that he’s saving his money for something special – his mother. “Well, she’s not really my mother, she’s my grandmother”, he says, “but she raised me – my real parents, didn’t want me”. “My grandmother is a wonderful woman”, he continues, “she has a laugh that could make the birds sing…but she’s been quite ill lately, and the hospital bills have been adding up…I just wanna do my share”. “It’s kinda tough for me”, says Freddy, “because I was never very good with money, I just seem to take whatever the red cross pays me and give it right back to them”. “I am going to help my Gram-Gram”, he continues, “because she is the one who taught me that it is better to be truthful and good, than not”. All the while, Lawrence looks on from a nearby table, sceptical. The woman then watches Freddy forlornly munch on some bread, and calls the waiter over. “Give this man whatever he wants”, she says. Freddy puts up some weak resistance to this idea, and the woman bats this resistance away. Freddy then addresses the waiter and orders the most ridiculously lengthy and pre-planned meal.
- Shot of the train going through the Swiss countryside.
- Cut to inside the train, where Lawrence sits alone in a cabin, reading the newspaper. Freddy enters the cabin, and says to Lawrence: “forgot I had a first-class ticket”. He then opens the curtains – to Lawrence’s dismay – and starts singing. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation in the dining car”, says Lawrence, “my condolences to your grandmother”. At first Freddy doesn’t seem to know what Lawrence is talking about, and Lawrence says: “didn’t you say she was taken ill?” “I tell ‘em what they want to hear if it gets me what I want”, Freddy replies. “Rather a shabby trick, isn’t it?” asks Lawrence. “I’m afraid you’ve got to learn about women”, says Freddy, and Lawrence replies: “yes, I’m afraid I am a big naïve when it comes to the weaker sex”. Freddy then holds out his hand and the two men introduce themselves. Freddy then observes from his ring that Lawrence is married, before setting off on a rant about how men are actually the weaker sex. “I say, it’s time for a change”, says Freddy, “I say, let’s live off them for a while – that probably shocks a guy like you, right?” “Well it’s a rather revolutionary thought”, Lawrence replies, “you really think it’s possible?” Freddy then asks Lawrence to consider what he did in the dining car. “Do you have any idea what it feels like to take a woman for $20?” asks Freddy. “No I’m afraid I don’t”, Lawrence replies, “it’s a little out of my class”. “That’s too bad, coulda had a blast on the Riviera”, says Freddy, “there’s meant to be a town there crawling with rich women”. Lawrence asks the name of the town, and Freddy says: “Beaumont-sur-Mere”. Lawrence laughs and tells Freddy he’s been misinformed: “Beaumont used to be a lively spot, but it’s been taken over now by older, retired couples, it’s quite dead…I used to live there, I’m considered to be the town’s playboy”. “All the social activity”, Lawrence continues, “has gone towards the Italian Riviera – Portofino”. Freddy isn’t being put off though, saying that “some of these sleepy towns really pay off”. Lawrence then excuses himself to go and call his wife and children, and Freddy says: “they’ve really got you on a leash, don’t they?” “Fraid so”, Lawrence replies.
- Shots of the train pulling in.
- Freddy and Lawrence both stick their heads out of the window, and see a beautiful woman on the platform. They both crane their necks in unison to get a better look at her. “Older retired couples, huh?” says Freddy, “you got a ride into town?” Lawrence confirms that he has, and Freddy says: “great you can give me a lift”. The beautiful woman from outside then appears, and asks if the train is going to Portofino. “Yes, it is”, says Lawrence, before turning to Freddy and saying: “but we’re getting off, right?” The woman then inches past them into the carriage, and Freddy is dumbstruck. Lawrence asks again if Freddy’s getting off, and Freddy asks how far Portofino is. The woman replies that it’s 175km, and that she lives there. “Come and stay with me”, says Lawrence, and Freddy replies: “I would love to but my grandmother’s there, and she’s expecting me”. The woman says: “your grandmother is living in Portofino?” and Freddy replies: “actually she’s quite ill”. “Well give my best to your grandmother”, says Lawrence, “I hope her health improves”, and then he leaves.
- Lawrence stands on the platform watching the train leave. Andre then appears, and says: “your phonecall didn’t give me much time”. “MARION (Nathalie Auffret) was perfect”, Lawrence replies, “make sure she gets back ok please Andre”. Andre asks why she was necessary, and Lawrence says: “I needed a decoy, this idiot sharing my compartment fancied himself as a bit of a player, said he was going to do some hunting in my Beaumont-sur-Mere”. “You can afford to dismiss some amateurs”, says Andre, “surely he was no match for you?” “You can’t be too careful though Andre, a poacher who shoots at rabbits may scare big game away”, Lawrence replies. They walk off the platform where a chauffeur-driven car is waiting.
- Cut to Lawrence sitting with a police inspector. The inspector reads from a newspaper: “a clever young American con-artist nicknamed ‘The Jackal’ has been working Western Europe”. “If he’s in the papers”, Lawrence replies, “how clever can he be?” The police inspector then produces a photo of a woman – KRISTA KNUDSEN (Aina Walle) – who he explains is the widow of LARS KNUDSEN, the Danish match king. The police inspector tells Lawrence that she left the Excelsior Hotel in Genova that morning, in a white Ferrari. “She should be arriving…approximately”, says the police inspector, “ah, here she is now”. The white Ferrari appears, and we see that Freddy is sitting in the front seat, trying to refuse Krista’s offers of money. “He is a poacher?” asks the police inspector, and Lawrence says: “yes, and he’s no longer chasing rabbits”. “Monsieur police inspector”, says Lawrence, “could you arrange something for me?” “The usual?”, the inspector replies, and Lawrence just nods.
- Cut to Freddy walking out of “his” hotel, getting into the white Ferrari and driving away. Andre follows in a more discrete vehicle.
- Shot of Andre’s POV, as Freddy dances out of a department store carrying bags of clothes.
- Cut to the beach, where Freddy is paying a photographer to have his photo taken with a beautiful woman.
- Watching this unfold is Andre, who has Krista in the back of his car. “Have you seen enough Mrs. Knudsen?” “But that money was supposed to go towards an operation for his grandmother”, she exclaims. “He is a confidence man, a trickster, you would like to make a complaint?” says Andre, and she replies: “gladly”. This sequence is intercut with shots of Freddy posing with the girl and the money.
- Cut to the local police station, where Freddy is protesting his innocence to the police inspector. Freddy claims that he didn’t steal the money, she gave it to him, and then changes tack and says that she caught him with another woman. “To be with another woman – that is French, to be caught – that is American”, replies the policeman. Freddy’s attentions then turn to how he’s going to get out of there, and the policeman reminds him that he’s a vagrant. It then occurs to him that he does know someone in town, and then tries desperately to remember Lawrence’s name. In the end he almost gets there, but the policeman has to jog his memory.
- Time-cut to Lawrence arriving outside Freddy’s cell. “Freddy this is very serious”, says Lawrence, “they don’t treat gigolos lightly in France…up until 75 years ago they were still castrating them”. They then go on to discuss the importance of who the judge in the case is, and it’s JUDGE RENOULT, a harsh one, according to Lawrence. They then discuss the possibility of bribing the judge and Lawrence tells Freddy that the judge will want “at least £5000”. Freddy says that he has that much money at home and he could go there and mail the judge a cheque. Lawrence then goes over to the inspector, who gets angry, and Lawrence has to calm him down. “Freddy, he says you can go”, says Lawrence, “but he’s got to have the rest of the money within 48 hours, or he’ll submit your name to Interpol, and you’ll never be able to travel in Europe again”. Freddy thanks Lawrence profusely.
- Cut to the airport at Beaumont-sur-Mere. Freddy is being accompanied to the plane by Lawrence and the inspector. “You know, I’m normally pretty good at sizing people up”, says Freddy, “but you’re a terrific guy”. “I suppose I get pleasure from helping people like you out”, says Lawrence, and we cut to…
- Inside the plane, when Fanny watched Lawrence shaking Freddy’s hand. Freddy then gets on the plane.
- Shot of the plane in flight.
- Inside the plane, Freddy sits reading a magazine. Fanny walks past, and beckons him to follow her. Outside the toilet, she says to him: “I see you know his highness”. “Who?” Freddy asks. “The prince – I saw him shake your hand and pat you on the back”, she says. Freddy slowly gets who she’s on about, and says: “no kidding, and you are?” “Fanny Eubanks”, she replies, “of Omaha”. Freddy hasn’t a clue who she is, and she says: “you don’t have to cover up with me, it may be my money that’s financing your mission…perhaps his highness has mentioned me”. Suddenly it all becomes clear to Freddy, and he says: “oh, Lady Fanny of Omaha”. “He called me Lady Fanny?”, she replies, and he says: “yes, he speaks of you with great affection…you have done a wonderful thing”.
- Cut to a palatial mansion, and Lawrence eating his breakfast. He’s interrupted by one his aides, ARTHUR (IAN MCDIARMID) who says that there’s a courier outside who says that he’ll recognise the secret password. “What secret password?” asks Lawrence, and we hear Freddy’s voice: “Lady Fanny of Omaha”. Freddy then appears, and asks the aide to take his belonging to the guest bedroom and ensure that “everything is neatly pressed”. Lawrence tells Arthur to do as Freddy says. Freddy then marvels at the stunning view, and says “what an asshole I was telling you how to take women”. “Alright, how much do you want?” asks Lawrence, removing his wallet. “Oh your highness”, Freddy mocks, “I don’t want money from someone who needs every penny to free his enslaved people”. Lawrence asks him what he really wants, in that case, and Freddy replies: “this!”, once more marvelling at the surroundings. “I don’t want money, I want you to teach me”, says Freddy, “all my life I wanted to be the best at something, and I thought I was the best, until I met you…I never knew how far you could go with this scamming thing, you’ve opened my eyes”. “Freddy this scamming thing”, Lawrence replies, “took me years to perfect”. Freddy replies that he has time, and Lawrence asks him why he should help him. “Guy with my mouth could ruin a lot of business around here for you”, Freddy replies. Lawrence then asks Freddy about his education, and Freddy replies that he got a high school diploma, and majored in metal shop. “Alright”, Lawrence concedes, “I’ll do it”. “I’ll teach you, I’ll set you up, and I’ll pay you a percentage”, he says, “but with one understanding: I run this operation, and you do as I say”. Freddy goes wild, and Lawrence says: “classes begin after lunch”.
- Cut to Lawrence walking with the police inspector outside his house. “I have a plan for this ‘Jackal’”, says the inspector, “there is a friend who owes me a favour – RENEE ZENATE – he is a master with the stiletto, and an absolute magician at hiding a body…as police inspector I give you my word that the case will be investigated in a very slipshod manner”. Andre tells him that it will be a mistake to take him in, and Lawrence says: “I am taking him in gracefully, in order to get him out, gracefully”.
- Makeover/training sequence in which Lawrence picks out suits for Freddy; does his hair; teaches him how to walk elegantly; shows him how to arrange flowers; how to kiss hands; how to gaze up at the moonlight and raise a toast; how to play croquet; and even how to lean up against a wall. Finally, Freddy undergoes an “exam” on what he’s learnt under the watchful eyes of Lawrence, Andre and Arthur. At the end, he receives applause from Lawrence, but is reminded that he must do exactly as Lawrence says.
- Cut to a shot of Lawrence clumsily splashing down a glass of champagne. “I feel like a kept man”, he says to a WOMAN FROM OKLAHOMA, “I’m going to go to Andre and tell him to tear up the cheque immediately”. “No you can’t”, says the woman, “I paid the 100,000 francs in cash…please don’t be mad at me, he said he wouldn’t let you leave unless I paid off your loan”. “What else did he say?” Lawrence asks her. “He told me he needed that money for your country and to help fight communists”, she says, “it’s just such a noble cause”. She begs him not to be angry with her, and manages to make him laugh. “Daddy says we’re going to have the biggest wedding Tulsa’s ever seen”, she adds, before asking him when they’re going to fly back. He proposes that they go by boat, and then informs her about his “brother” Ruprecht, “the younger prince”, who’ll be coming with them. “You mean I’ll be going home with two princes?” she says, wide-eyed. “Wherever I go”, Lawrence replies, “Ruprecht goes to”. She giggles, and he leads her off to meet “Ruprecht”.
- Lawrence leads her through the garden and down some creepy-looking stairs. “I think I should warn you that Ruprecht is, well, “special”’, he says. He warns her not to make any sudden moves, and they enter the room to find “Ruprecht” aka Freddy, sitting on the bed, generally behaving like he’s retarded. He beckons Lawrence over to the bed, and they have an infantile cuddle, which quickly develops into some kind of twisted clinch. The woman looks on in horror, as Ruprecht comes over and addresses her as “mother”. Lawrence tells Ruprecht that he and the woman are to be married in Oklahoma, and Ruprecht starts smashing crockery as a result. Lawrence then tells him to apologise, and Ruprecht hugs the woman to say sorry, but the hug quickly develops into a similar clinch to before. “Ruprecht! Do you want the genital club?” Lawrence says, and Ruprecht quickly gets off her. Ruprecht then starts running around chanting “Oklahoma!” and banging kitchen utensils together, and Lawrence tells the woman how much Ruprecht will enjoy Oklahoma, “he likes to run and run”, he says.
- Cut to dinner, where Lawrence sits at one end of the table, and another woman, DIANA (Frances Conroy), at the other, with Ruprecht (wearing an eye-patch) sitting half-way along, holding a plastic trident and looking pained. Ruprecht can’t believe this woman isn’t their mother. Lawrence tells Ruprecht that he and Diana are going to be married, and that they’re going to live in Palm Beach. Ruprecht then asks permission to go to the toilet, and does it right on the floor. Diana is appalled.
- Cut to Diana sitting in the back of the car, as Lawrence drives along. Ruprecht sits in the passenger seat, and turns a toy steering wheel. “Driving relaxes Ruprecht”, says Lawrence. They drive off, and Ruprecht puts his arm around Diana and shouts: “I think my testicals are dropping”.
- Cut to Lawrence’s office. His “team” are assembled around him. “It’s been a very good month, chaps”, he says, before dolling out cash to Arthur and Andre, but not Freddy. The others leave, and Freddy asks what he gets. “You are the student, Freddy, you get knowledge”, Lawrence replies. “Hang on I did most of the work”, says Freddy, “I should get my share of the cash”. “Freddy I wouldn’t dream of giving you your share without being certain that you would spend it wisely on beauty and culture”, says Lawrence, to which Freddy replies: “I’ve got culture coming out of my ass”. Eventually Freddy gives in however, asking “how am I meant to spend my money?”
- Cut to Lawrence wine cellar. He’s showing Freddy around, and tells him that you can neither drink the wine nor sell it. Freddy struggles with the concept of a collection.
- Lawrence then shows Freddy round his exquisite garden – once more, Freddy doesn’t get the point of spending money on it.
- Then they walk round a gallery, and Freddy definitely doesn’t get it. “You want me to spend my money on wine you can’t drink, and a garden that frankly to me looks like a big mowing headache”, he rants. “You agreed to do what I say”, says Lawrence. “Yes but I didn’t agree to you telling me how to spend my money and I didn’t agree to playing Ruprecht the monkey boy all the time”, he says, before announcing, “I’m going it alone”. “Freddy”, says Lawrence, “you’ve still so much to learn”, but Freddy has had enough, and is “getting out of this town”. Lawrence is delighted – “good luck” he calls after him.
- Lawrence strolls through town and meets up with Andre. “Well the Jackal has finally tucked his tail between his legs and crawled away”, says Lawrence and Andre replies: “good, then it is business as usual”. Andre leaves, and then Lawrence sees Freddy trying to chat up an attractive woman, but the woman completely ignores him. Freddy sees Lawrence, and Lawrence asks him: “what are you doing here?” “You know that’s a funny story”, Freddy replies, “I was at the train station, ticket in hand, and I said to myself ‘what am I leaving this place for? The people love me here’, so I’ll be around a little bit more – lucky you”. Freddy moves off and Lawrence follows, telling him: “there simply isn’t enough room for us to both work Beaumont-sur-Mere”. Freddy then accuses Lawrence of being scared of him, of the competition and describes him as having “been top dog in this town for so long you think you own the place”. Lawrence denies this, but Freddy continues: “I’m younger than you, I’m better looking than you, I’m thinner than you, and I could kick your ass off this hill in a New York minute”. “And I could have you arrested again”, says Lawrence, but Freddy comes back by saying that he “could call Lady Fanny of Omaha”.
- Cut to Lawrence walking with Freddy up the hill. “As a younger man, I was a sculptor, a painter and a musician”, says Lawrence, “there was just one problem – I wasn’t very good, but I finally came to the conclusion that I had taste and style, but not talent, I knew my limitations”. “We all have our limitations”, he tells Freddy, “fortunately I discovered that taste and style were commodities people desired…know your limitations – you are a moron”. “You’ve been trying to get me out of this town ever since I came here”, says Freddy, “but we’ll make a bet: if I lose, I’ll leave, if I win, you leave”.
- Cut to inside a hotel. “Ok Freddy, suppose we try this”, says Lawrence, “we find a woman, set a price, and the first man to extract the correct amount from her, wins”. “But if you lose”, Lawrence continues, “you not only leave town graciously but you also promise never to come back Beaumont-sur-Mere again”. Freddy accepts this challenge, but then there’s an enormous commotion from the lobby.
- They move through to find that a stylishly-dressed woman has dropped all her belongings on the floor, causing them to spill everywhere. Lawrence asks the manager who she is, and he tells them she is JANET COLGATE (Glenne Headly) – “the United States soap queen”. Lawrence proposes that they bet on Janet to the tune of $50,000 – the first one to get the $50,000 out of her wins the bet. They shake hands on it.
- Cut to Lawrence arriving back at the hotel that evening.
- He moves into the casino, where he meets with Andre, who points out Janet at the roulette table, and also informs Lawrence that Freddy has dropped out of sight. “Keep your eyes open Andre”, says Lawrence, “he’ll turn up”.
- Lawrence sits down next to Janet at the table. As before, he bets on the same number as her, and this time they both win. They both bet on the same number again, and they win again. Lawrence looks to Andre in amazement. Then there’s pushing in the crowd, and we see Freddy emerge, in a wheelchair, dressed in a heavily-decorated naval uniform. He manages to split Lawrence and Janet up, so that he’s sitting next to her. He still can’t get close enough to the table to place the bet himself, so asks Janet to place the bet for him. He then tells her about his recent bad luck, and asks her to pick a number for him. “I could use all the luck I can get”, Freddy adds. The wheel spins, and Freddy loses, so he takes off one of his medals and asks Janet to ask the croupier if he can advance him some dollars. The croupier says no, so Freddy takes the medal back and then tries to turn his wheelchair around, and finally manages to do it, faking great pain. Janet then leaves the table too, to follow Freddy, to Lawrence’s immense annoyance.
- Janet follows Freddy outside, and asks him if she can help him. He mutters something about his “last chance for an operation”, and she says: “shouldn’t the navy pay for your operation?” “It’s not for me”, he replies, “it’s for my grandmother – I just got word from the hospital that she’s in pretty bad shape, and if they don’t operate soon she might…”. Freddy can’t even get the words out, and then apologises for telling a complete stranger about his problems, but she says: “oh please don’t feel that way, why don’t you just tell me what they are”.
- Cut to Lawrence collecting his money at the casino. “One stroke of bad luck after the other”, he says to Andre.
- Meanwhile Freddy and Janet are now having a drink together. She gives him 1000 francs in chips. “I don’t know how to thank you”, he says, “but I want you to know that you have saved the life of a wonderful person”. She then asks him if an operation would help him, and he says no. “My problem isn’t physical, it’s emotional”, he says, “I’m on six weeks MTL – mental trauma leave”. She asks him what happened and he says: “I was engaged to a girl back in the states, and we loved to dance – we wanted to be professionals – isn’t that silly?” “We got an opportunity to perform on TV, on Dance USA”, he continues, “and we decided if we won, we’d get married, so we went on, and we danced, and we won, but in the excitement we got separated, so I went back to the studio, and there they were – naked, dancing”. He goes to tell how his ex-partner made love on the dancefloor in front of him. “Who was she with?” asks Janet and Freddy replies: “Danny Terrio – the host of Dance USA”. By now Freddy is crying, but keeps talking: “in the morning, I woke up, and my legs were useless, numb, I couldn’t walk”. “Well surely someone can help you”, says Janet, and Freddy replies: “we there is someone, this psychiatrist, Doctor Emil Schauffhausen of the Schauffhausen Clinic in Lichtenstein”. Janet asks why Freddy doesn’t go to him, and Freddy tells her how in demand the Doctor is all over the world, gets astronomical fees, it’s just not something he can handle. Janet then asks him what he means by astronomical, and he says: “$50,000”. Freddy then looks across and sees a couple dancing. “Oh God”, he wails, “they’re dancing”. He begins crying and wailing and Janet wheels him away, saying that they’re going up to her room immediately and then going off to see Doctor Schauffhausen. Andre watches them go, and scribbles something on the back of a cigarette carton.
- Shot of an envelope addressed to Doctor Schauffhausen. Pan up to reveal Janet putting a stamp on it. “I wish you wouldn’t write these things about me to Doctor Schauffhausen”, says Freddy, “you make me sound like a hero”. “But they’re true aren’t they?”, says Janet, and Freddy shrugs sheepishly and says yes. “Still you shouldn’t have promised him the money”, says Freddy, “where am I going to get $50,000?” “You leave that to me Freddy”, says Janet, “when the time comes I promise you, you’ll have it”. She leaves to go and mail the letter, and he thanks her, before getting up out of his wheelchair and celebrating uproariously as soon as she’s gone.
- Janet goes downstairs and posts the letter, and then walks past a bellboy holding a sign for Doctor Emil Schauffhausen. She follows the bellboy round the corner, where he locates the Doctor (but we can’t see him from behind his chair).
- Janet comes round the corner and says: “hello again! Are you Doctor Schauffhausen?” “Yes, frauline”, answers Lawrence. “This is a miracle”, she replies, “I just wrote you a letter about someone who needs your help”. “Good”, the doctor replies, “I look forward to reading it when I get back to my clinic”. He says goodbye and gets back to his newspaper, but she persists and he says: “please, I am on my vacation”. Janet tells him about Freddy, and the doctor replies: “is he the one who wrote me all those letters about his fiancée running off with another man?” Janet confirms it’s the same guy, and then asks the doctor if he’ll take a look at him. “I’m sorry Janet”, he says, “but if I have to see your friend Benson, then I have to see everyone…I must draw the line somewhere”. Janet then raises the issue of money, and the doctor snaps: “you haven’t given him any money, have you?” “Just a little bit”, says Janet, “for his grandmother’s operation”. “Don’t give him anymore money”, says the doctor, “his ego has taken one shattering blow from a woman, and if he accepts charity from a woman, that is another blow, it makes life so much harder”. Finally the doctor agrees to see him, but tells her to remember what he said: “no money for him, if I do decide to take this case you must pay the fee directly to me – you understand?” She agrees to this, and set off to go and see Freddy.
- Cut to Freddy mooching around Janet’s hotel room. Janet appears at the door and he quickly jumps back into his wheelchair. She asks him to close his eyes, because she’s got a surprise for him. “Who is the one person in the world”, she asks, “outside of your grandmother, you’d most like to see at this moment?” He gives up, and she introduces Doctor Schauffhausen. The door swings slowly open and Lawrence is standing there. “At last we meet Officer Benson”, says the doctor, “after all those letters I feel like I know you”. Freddy is dumbstruck. “He can’t believe it’s really you”, says Janet, and the doctor says: “yes, that must be it”. He then leans in to Freddy, and tells him that he’s here to help, and then begins examining Freddy’s legs. “So, you are numb from the waist down”, says the doctor, “is that correct?” Freddy confirms this, and then the doctor pulls off his sock, and says: “well you won’t be feeling Mr. Piggy then will you?” The doctor then tickles his foot, and Freddy maintains that he can’t feel it. “We must try something else”, says the doctor, rolling up Freddy’s trousers, “something a little more stringent”. The doctor puts his glasses on and moves over to the flower pot, where he picks out a twangy reed. He whips Freddy’s leg with it, and then whips it again, harder, and Freddy struggles to contain his pain. The doctor tries once more, with no success, and then takes a huge run-up and whips him again and this time Freddy really struggles to contain his pain, but just about manages it. “This case intrigues me, Janet”, says the doctor, “I will take Officer Benson as a patient”. Janet is thrilled, but Freddy is absolutely crushed, but tries not to show it. “I am renting a villa in this area”, says the doctor, “you will move him in and I will really go to work on him”. Janet is very grateful, and asks if he thinks he’ll be able to get Freddy walking again. “Oh I will have him running, jumping, shouting, screaming or my name isn’t Doctor! Emil! Schauffhausen!” At each word he whips Freddy playfully with the reed. “Look doctor he’s so happy he’s crying”, she says, and we see Freddy, tears rolling down his cheeks.
- Cut to Janet and the doctor walking out of the hotel, whilst a porter carries Freddy. They’re about to make off, when one of Lawrence past conquests – MRS. REED (Dana Ivey) emerges, addressing him as “your highness”. She goes down on one knee and they briefly discuss a trip to Bolivia she’s financed for him (money which went into his own pocket), and then he introduces her to Janet. Mrs. Reed then asks about his strange accent, and he says that he’s “travelling incognito”. She then asks about “the freedom fighters”, and he replies: “Lady Janet is one of us”. Lawrence then briefly introduces her to Freddy, before making off promising to telephone her about them having lunch together. As Mrs. Reed “curtsies” off, the doctor leans over to Janet and says: “one of my former patients, unfortunately incurable”. They drive off.
- Cut to the car arriving back at the doctor’s “rented” accommodation. Lawrence gets out and Janet leans over to Freddy who’s still lying in the back seat, and says: “Freddy isn’t this beautiful? I can’t believe this is really happening. He’s sacrificing his vacation and sharing his villa with us!” Arthur approaches and the doctor introduces Janet and Freddy – he explains that Janet will be staying in the hotel, but Freddy will be staying with them, where the doctor can “watch him night and day”. The doctor then leads Janet away to show her around the house, and Arthur says to Freddy: “welcome to hell”.
- Janet and the doctor walk down a hallway, and she comments on how beautiful it is. “Janet, we haven’t discussed my fee yet”, says the doctor, “it will be $50,000”. “Yes, I’ll have to call my father”, says Janet. Freddy then comes screeching round the corner but can’t follow them up the stairs due to his wheelchair. “What about Freddy?” asks Janet, and the doctor replies: “Freddy, go to your room!” Freddy then says that he’d like to come upstairs too, and the doctor welcomes him to try, telling Janet that his ailment is all psychological. “It seems so cruel”, she says, but Lawrence replies: “trust me, I am a doctor”.
- They move upstairs, where the doctor shows her the music room. He puts on an old music box, and they start dancing together. Just as things look likely to become amorous, Freddy appears, crawling along the floor. “I heard the music, and then I pulled myself up the stairs, and then I saw you and him “dancing”’. Freddy starts crying and wailing, but the doctor says: “the more he sees us dance, the more he will get used to it”. Janet says that it’s awful that he can see them dancing, and so the doctor shuts the door on Freddy. “This is terrible”, says Janet, but the doctor replies: “it’s only through our strength that Freddy will find his”.
- Cut to the next day, and Janet and the doctor walking outside in the sunshine. “I have a wonderful day planned for Freddy”, he says, “but I need your help for it be successful”. He shows her to a table that will be sitting at, and then a child’s table next to it, that Freddy will be sitting at. Arthur then approaches, and tells the doctor that Freddy isn’t in his room, and that he found a letter on the bed. The doctor reads the letter, and then passes it to Janet who reads out-loud from it: “I have lost hope”, she reads, “will you see that my grandmother gets my insurance…my body’s washed to shore…my remains are cremated and tossed over the river…he’s going to drown himself!” In the background, we see Freddy wheeling himself along by the swimming pool, and the doctor describes the tactic as a “fluff to gain sympathy”. The doctor then tells Janet to enjoy herself, and laugh loudly. Freddy looks back at them reproachfully, and then Arthur appears claiming there’s a man at the door looking to deliver a satellite dish. The doctor goes inside to investigate.
- Freddy then wheels himself over to the steps leading down towards the sea, and taunts Janet, who’s watching on, that he’s going to push himself off. He then cons her into thinking he has, when in fact he’s got out of the wheelchair and is running down the steps carrying it. Janet gives chase, and finds Freddy crawling along the sand trying to get the beach. She eventually catches him and stops him just before the sea, and tells him that she’s going to get Doctor Schauffhausen. “Not him! He hates me”, says Freddy, “he’s trying to torture me”. “He may seem strict”, Janet replies, “but he’s just trying to help you”. He pleads with her and she agrees to stay on the beach with him for a while.
- POV shot of Lawrence looking out of the window to check that Janet is still at the table. “Just as I thought”, he mutters, when he sees she’s not there.
- Back to Freddy and Janet lying on the beach. “Sorry I was so depressed this morning”, says Freddy, “last night I had a dream about her”. “I remember how I used to stare at her”, he says, “and just touch her face”. As his says this, he touches Janet’s face, and she says: “that is so sweet”. “She was the first girl I ever kissed”, he says, “and now I will probably never kiss another girl for the rest of my life”. “Freddy that is ridiculous”, she replies, “you are an attractive and adventurous and sensitive man and I’m sure there are a million women who’d love to kiss you”. Freddy then asks her if he’s attractive and exciting to her, and she is about to kiss him when the doctor’s voice shatters the romance, and she pulls away. He calls her over for a word, and tells her that he’s going to drop the case. She pleads with him to continue and he relents, but insists that they must be his role model – they must enjoy themselves so much that “Freddy will literally jump out of the wheelchair and join us”. She says that she’ll try, and he says that he’ll be there to help her.
- Montage sequence of the doctor and Janet having fun: riding horses, playing tennis and dancing in a nightclub.
- In the club, Freddie sits in his wheelchair on the edge of the dancefloor, and watches forlornly as Janet and the doctor dance. The doctor comes over and encourages Freddy to get up and dance, and this comment attracts the attention of two ENGLISH SAILORS, who take offence at this remark. Freddy decides to milk this. “I wouldn’t mind so much”, he says, “but she used to be my girl…if I could just get her alone I think I could have a chance”.
- On the dancefloor, the doctor pitches an idea to Janet. “If it was love that put him in that wheelchair”, he says, “maybe love could get him out – would you mind if I gave you a little kiss?” “Well, if you think that it would help”, she says, and they start kissing. Freddie looks then looks to the sailors for assistance, and one of the sailors says: “there’s a transport plane heading for Honduras tonight, how would you like your friend to be on it?” Freddy just leans back, and puts his hand on their hands by way of confirmation and gratitude.
- Back at the hotel that night, the doctor walks Janet to her hotel, and she apologises for the delay in paying his fee – it should be in his account tomorrow, she says. She goes on to describe how her father has sold off lots of belongings to raise the money for the treatment. “Your father doesn’t own the United States Soap Company?” asks the doctor. “No”, she laughs, “I just use their laundry detergent”. “You barely know Freddy”, says the doctor, “but you’d sell everything you own for him?” “Knowing a man like Freddy is going to be able to live his life again means more to me than the car or the furniture or the jewellery…I really couldn’t ask for a better price than that”. “I never knew that people like you existed”, says the doctor, “you are generous, sincere, you are wonderful”. Visibly moved, he wishes her good night.
- Cut to Freddy and Lawrence in the car together. “Freddy, get it into your head”, says Lawrence, “the bet’s off – she hasn’t got the money”. Freddy thinks he’s making this up, and argues that even if they take her for everything, she’ll still have a “very, very nice mink”. “Freddy the women I deal with are carefully screened”, says Lawrence, “they’re wealthy – I never take advantage of the poor or the virtuous”. Freddy then suggests that they forget about the money but have a new bet – first one to get her into bed wins. “Don’t you ever have an emotion that originates above the waste?” asks Lawrence, and Freddy says: “no”. Lawrence goes on to say how a woman like Janet would never go with someone like him. “You actually believe that?” asks Freddy, and he re-issues the bet, and Lawrence goes for it. “But I’m not competing to win”, he says, “I’m just betting that you fail”. They both agree on the stakes though – the loser will leave town.
- They arrive back at Lawrence’s mansion to find the sailors blocking the gate with their big truck. “This is private property you know”, says Lawrence to the driver, who tells him to go and see the captain in the back of the truck. Lawrence goes round to the back of the truck, and pulls aside some curtains, but is then hauled into the truck. They drive off, wishing an elated Freddy luck as they pass. Freddy then jumps into the driver’s seat and drives the car into the property.
- The next morning Janet opens her doors to find Freddy in his wheelchair. “Freddy, I thought Doctor Schauffhausen took you home”, says Janet, and Freddy says that he couldn’t sleep, and needs to talk to her. Freddy reminds her of what Doctor Schauffhausen said about desire being the only thing that could make him walk again. “Janet, I think you’re the only person who could give me that desire”, says Freddy. “I love you”, he continues, “and I think I could walk again if you would love me too, but I still have this terrible fear that my feelings won’t be returned”. “But your feelings will be returned”, she says, “because I think I love you too, Freddy”. There then ensues a sequence in which Janet coaxes Freddy slowly out of his wheelchair, through promising to reciprocate his feelings if he can walk to her. He walks to her once, and then persuades her to go over to the bed, where he walks to her again. They’re just about to kiss, when they’re once more interrupted by the sound of Doctor Schauffhausen’s voice. “It’s moments like this that make being a doctor worthwhile”, says Lawrence. “No wonder they call you a genius”, says Janet, getting up off the bed, “you said that he would come here this morning and he did, you said that he would walk and he did…Freddy I’m beginning to believe that this man can really perform miracles”. “I’m beginning to believe it, too”, says Freddy, dumbstruck once more.
- Cut to Freddy interrogating Lawrence as they walk down the hotel corridor. Freddy asks him how he got off the plane, and Lawrence replies that he never got on it. “There were six sailors in the back of that truck”, says Freddy, but Lawrence then shows him his “Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve Badge”, and he understands how Lawrence got himself out of that fix. “Think you got me, don’t you?” says Freddy, “well now I’m really going to turn on the charm”. “No you’re not Freddy”, says Lawrence, “I am taking her to the airport in the morning – you’ve failed, and I am making sure she gets as far away from you as possible”. Freddy asks him how he plans on doing that, and in answer Lawrence opens the door to a room, and finds a party going on inside with the sailors and some girls. “Oh yes, and he can walk just like the man said he could”, says one of them, catching sight of Freddy. “Will you take care of my friend until I get back?” asks Lawrence, and the sailors grab Freddy and drag him into the room. “Plenty more food and champagne to come”, says Lawrence, as the doors close on Freddy.
- Cut to the airport, and Lawrence leading Janet to her flight. “But couldn’t I just call Freddy?” asks Janet, but Lawrence stresses the importance of her going away for a couple of weeks. “If a man loves you he will follow you”, says Lawrence. She then asks him what they can do about his fee, and he says: “you do what I tell you and you can keep the fee”.
- Back to the hotel. Lawrence arrives to find everyone leaving the party in high spirits. Freddy is drunk, and laughing with the sailors. He says he had a great time. Freddy then asks Lawrence to hand him the superglue solvent, and we realise that the sailors have superglued his hand to the door frame.
- Cut to the pair of con men leaving the hotel, with Freddy muttering about how his hand was on the wall for 6 hours. Lawrence tells Freddy the bet is over, and points to a plane in the sky, and says that Janet is on it. “Have the honour to admit it Freddy”, says Lawrence, “you’ve lost…have a safe trip and a prosperous career. Auf Vidersein”. Lawrence drives off, and Freddy hares back into the hotel.
- Freddy goes back into the hotel room, and scours around for Janet with no success. He sits down, admitting to himself that he lost, and then we hear Janet’s voice. Janet then runs into the room, and says: “I know the doctor said that it might endanger your recovery but I had to see you…I really am in love with you”. They begin kissing, and she asks him to close the drapes and shut the door before they have sex. Janet begins unbuttoning her blouse and we cut to…
- Lawrence swimming in his pool, smiling and happy. Arthur brings out the phone to him, and it’s Andre on the line. “Miss Colgate was seen returning to the hotel”, says Andre, “and then she was in the room with Monsieur Benson and the curtains drawn”. “It seems the teacher has underestimated the student”, says Lawrence, “we must accept defeat graciously, and now I will prepare myself for The Jackal, I’m sure he’ll be over here soon to gloat over his victory”.
- Cut to later. The doorbell rings but the camera stays on Lawrence, as Arthur shows a tearful Janet in to see him. “I know what you said”, she says, “but I just had to see him again, I thought I was in love with him…I went back to see him, and we made love, and I tried to please him but how could I have known?” She goes on to describe how she fell asleep and when she woke up he was gone. “He took all my money”, she says, “my mink, my jewellery, my travellers cheques, even my little change purse…I’m beginning to think that he could walk, that he pretended this whole thing just to get to me and my money”. Lawrence then moves a bookcase revealing a safe, and calls Arthur in and tells him to inform Andre to locate Freddy because he’s stolen money off Janet. Lawrence also tells Arthur that he’ll be at the airport. He then takes some money out of the safe, and tells Janet that he is going to cover her losses, and put her on the first plane out of town. “You’re not responsible, how could you have known?” she says, and Lawrence replies: “any good psychiatrist would have known he was a charlatan…and it’s cheaper than a malpractice suit”. He insists she take it, and they leave.
- Cut to the airport. They say goodbye and Lawrence watches her onto the plane, but at the last minute she runs back to him and gives him the bag of money. Then, screeching round the corner comes Andre in his police car, with Freddy in the back, wearing a bathrobe and with handcuffs on. Lawrence tells him that Janet really is on the plane this time, and Freddy goes wild, saying that they’ve got to stop her. Freddy pursues the plane for a while, but then gives up and comes back. “I know you slept with her but you didn’t have to steal her money too”, says Lawrence. Freddy denies stealing her money, however and accuses her of stealing his money. He describes how she asked him to close the drapes, then shut the door, then she asked him to take a shower, and when he came out she was gone with all the money including the 2000 francs she initially gave him. “Do you really expect me to believe that when she’s just returned the $50,000 I just gave her?” asks Lawrence. “What $50,000?” asks Freddy, and Lawrence replies: “the $50,000 you stole from her”. “I didn’t steal $50,000 dollars from her”, he says, and then they both stare at the bag at Lawrence’s feet. Lawrence opens the bag up and finds Freddy’s clothes in there with a note.
- “Hello boys”, it reads, “it was fun, I’ll miss you, love Janet, The Jackal. PS. I’m keeping the money, is that wrong?”
- Freddy goes ballistic, calling Janet every name under the sun (all of which also apply to him), but Lawrence just laughs and reflects: “isn’t she wonderful?” Together, they watch the plane carrying Janet take off.
- Cut to Lawrence sitting on a bench on his property, looking out to sea. Arthur and Freddy approach. Freddy apologises to Arthur for breaking his VHS player, and promises to send him a cheque. “Oh shut up”, says Arthur. Freddy sits on the bench next to Lawrence, and thanks him for letting him stay an extra week. “You know I kinda had it figured from the beginning”, Freddy reflects, “J, Janet, J, Jackal, when you think about it it’s obvious”. “When do you think she was on to us?” and Lawrence says: “from the beginning, Freddy”. “So what are you going to do now?” asks Freddy, and Lawrence replies: “oh things will be quiet around here now, season’s over, autumn’s coming”. Freddy stands up to say goodbye, and then they see a group of tourists coming up the steps from the beach. A woman pushes to the front and we see that underneath the makeup and garish outfit it’s Janet, sporting a New York accent. Visible in the sea down below is a cruise ship, and Janet talks into a walkie-talkie and tells whoever’s on the boat to send the people’s bags up. Janet then introduces a Greek hotelier who is looking to sink $16 million into a new resort, and introduces Lawrence as CHIPS O’TOOLE, an Australian. After a long, pregnant pause Lawrence finally speaks in an Australian accent. She also introduces Freddy as a mute, before leading everyone up the house for a drink. After they’ve gone, she turns to the boys and says: “fellas, last year I made $3 million, but your $50,000 was the most fun”.
- She takes their arms, and leads them up the stairs in pursuit of their prey, as the credits roll…
Save the Cat! DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Beat Sheet Analysis
Opening Image (p. 1)
– Opening image: the back of a woman’s neck, undoing a pearl necklace around it. Whilst this is a dark, night-time, indoor image, and the finale is an outdoor, sun-washed, positive one, they don’t really constitute opposites. This scene does give some idea of the tone and mood of the film, but it’s a deceptive, playful one – a con, just like the characters at the movie’s centre. Overall, not the most Snyderian opening image we’ve come across.
Theme Stated (p. 5)
– “You can trust me”, the woman in the blue dress tells Lawrence around the 5 minute mark. Like THE STING, deception is the key theme of this film. Who can we trust? Who can the characters trust? Can anyone trust anyone? Throughout the film, our perceptions of what’s true and what isn’t are tampered with, as are the characters’ perceptions within it.
Set-Up (p. 1 – 10)
– “The first ten minutes sets up the hero, the stakes, and the goal of the story, and does so with vigour”, argues Snyder, and overall this does apply to DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. We meet the protagonist, Lawrence. We meet Andre, his right-hand man. We meet Freddy, the antagonist. We realise what the goal of these two characters is – to rip people off. We’ve seen the “world” (ie. the French Riviera) they aim to do it in. There aren’t any “running gags” or “call backs” set up of note though, and the film is so bereft of secondary characters that there isn’t any real need to set them up. Feels Snyderian overall then, but not glaringly so.
Catalyst (p. 12)
– Almost 12 minutes in Freddy comes crashing into Lawrence’s carriage and the protagonist and antagonist meet. This is a clear-enough Catalyst moment, without feeling quite “big” enough to really stand out in Snyderian terms. Still, it gets the action moving effectively, as Lawrence senses Freddy’s threat to the “harmony” of his world, and seeks to quash it. This desire to be rid of Freddy drives much of the story throughout the film.
Debate (p. 12 – 25)
– No real sense of any kind of Debate here, apart from the obvious: “what’s going to happen next?” It’s not as if the protagonist is wondering and deliberating what to do, because he’s already – to his knowledge – vanquished his enemy around the 20 minute mark. That the enemy then returns doesn’t turn this section of the story into a Debate, it just propels it forward. This is a sequence then, that doesn’t endorse Snyder’s theories.
Break into Act Two (p. 25)
– A clear-cut and well-timed Break into Act Two beat exists here, as Freddy returns as if from the dead, and shatters the peace of Lawrence’s world.
B Story (p. 30)
– If DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS is indeed about buddy love, then it’s arguable that the moment that Lawrence agrees to take Freddy under his wing and begins teaching him how to be a great conman, constitutes the beginning of the topsy-turvy male romance in the film. However this isn’t entirely convincing – the theme of the movie runs throughout it already, it’s not like the B Story is “carrying” it. It also fails to introduce us to any new characters, and overall this feels like a beat of dubious Snyderian quality.
Fun and Games (p. 30 – 55)
– The Fun and Games section arguably starts too early here, when we’re treated to a montage of Freddy’s “makeover” sequence, under Lawrence’s watchful eye. Still, the sequence continues in similar vein, as the pair carry out their first cons as a team, outwitting a series of women. This sequence is very in-keeping with Snyder’s theories overall – we paid up for this movie to see some crafty conmen at work together, and that’s precisely what we get. It’s also the funniest sequence in the movie, with Steve Martin excelling in his role as retarded Ruprecht. The only factor that takes the sheen of events, is that this sequence ends prematurely, when…
Midpoint (p. 55)
– The earnings are divided 38 minutes in, and Freddy rebels and decides to go it alone two minutes later. This is as clear a Midpoint as you’ll find, with the union that proved so successful during the Fun and Games section now disbanded, and the tension cranked up accordingly. “The stakes are raised at Midpoint” is an apt description of what happens here, and it’s in this sense that the beat feels most in keeping with Snyder’s definition of it. As suggested however, this does occur around 10 minutes too early for Snyder’s liking.
Bad Guys Close In (p. 55 -75)
– “It’s the point where internal dissent, doubt and jealousy begin to disintegrate the hero’s team”, writes Snyder, and Lawrence and Freddy going their separate ways certainly constitutes disintegration. There’s also some sense of a bleak outlook for the protagonist in the way that Freddy powers into an early lead in the race for Janet’s affections, but of course Lawrence then hits back by appearing in his guise as the Doctor, so in many ways this feels more like a Fun and Games section, as the two men try and out-con each other, than an ominous Bad Guys Close In Sequence.
All is Lost (p. 75)
– 80 minutes in and it seems like Lawrence is done for in the race for Janet’s affections. He’s been carted off by the sailors and is now, we presume, on a flight to Honduras. That this beat ends up feeling like a con in itself doesn’t detract from its Snyderian quality, because we do genuinely think Lawrence is done for at this point.
Dark Night of The Soul (p. 75 – 85)
– There’s no real sense of a Dark Night of The Soul here, as the one-upmanship simply continues unabated, with Lawrence getting the upper hand by miraculously reappearing, and then trapping Freddy, in order to put Janet on a flight. It’s now Freddy’s turn to admit “I lost”, but this certainly doesn’t feel like a sequence which conforms to Snyder’s definition of “the darkness before the light”.
Break into Act Three (p. 85)
– Janet’s magical reappearance would probably constitute the Break into Act Three moment but, once again, this really doesn’t convince on any Snyderian level. The hero hasn’t found any solution here, and the A and B stories certainly haven’t met and intertwined.
Finale (p. 85 – 110)
– In the Finale, Lawrence and Freddy realise that they’ve been conned by a superior crook. They haven’t applied any lessons to get to this point, nor have they “changed the world”, as Snyder instructs. They eventually just get lucky, when the superior crook in question decides she had such a great time with them that she’d like to form a team with them. Once more, this feels like a sequence scarcely in keeping with Snyder’s theories, and it’s also typical of one of the key flaws of the movie – because everyone is so busy outwitting each other, a lot of key story beats come across in very reactive rather than proactive terms.
Final Image (p. 110)
Janet takes their arms, and leads them up the stairs in pursuit of their prey, as the credits roll. As suggested, this hardly constitutes the opposite of the Opening Image, but the final twist is enjoyable and the union of the three cons gives the movie a positive and uplifting conclusion.
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