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Taxi Driver – An analogy of Travis Bickell

Logline: Travis Bickle, a lonely Vietnam vet, is a mentally unstable taxi driver wanting to clean up the streets of New York.

Taxi Driver reeks of loneliness. When the protagonist, Travis Bickell, is being interviewed for the cab driver job, the personnel officer immediately points out that “we don’t need any misfits around here, son,” so right off, we know that Travis is probably a misfit. Another indication that he lacks communication skills is the fact that he doesn’t have a phone. The inciting incident happens when Travis goes to the porn theater and starts talking to the girl at the counter like he wants to date her. This is where it is confirmed for the first time that Travis is a serious loner, a reject with little social skills. The amount of time he spends at the porn theater could be used reading self help books.

The antagonist is Travis’s own self worth. Travis wants to be a person, but a few times he said that he wasn’t even a person. He is a pitiful character that makes the reader feel sorry for him. He stands in his own way of getting what he wants, because he thinks that being a person requires being accepted by society. Travis also wants a woman, particularly Betsy, but his social skills are horrible. What Travis needs is to learn acceptable social skills and acceptance by society.

On their first date, Betsy tells Travis about a song by Kris Kristofferson that is about a walking contradiction. That’s exactly what Travis is. He views everything in the city as trash, yet his own apartment is littered with garbage, dirt, old furniture, and porn. Throughout the script, he talks about cleaning up the trash, the scum, the filth, yet he has created it in his own living space. Everything that he despises is exactly the way he lives.

On their second date, Travis takes Betsy to a movie – but it’s at the porn theater! This is the Plot Point 1, because then Betsy leaves and doesn’t want anything to do with Travis anymore. Boy loses girl, so this sets up everything for Act II.

One of the symbols I noted in the script was the Venus de Milo on the purple cloth at the counter of the porn theater. Venus de Milo is a representation of beauty and the color purple often represents royalty, which completely contradicts the way the women are treated in the movies shown at the theater. But the Venus de Milo is also armless, which could indicate that Travis does not getting any intimacy from women. He does, however, seem to view Betsy and Iris as goddesses (and Betsy as an angel), even though he exhibits stalkerish behavior. Before Betsy and Travis’s date, he has a couple of bottles of pills on the table. After the date, he has a “giant bottle of aspirin,” which indicates that not having a woman in his life is hurting him. In both scenes he has a bottle of apricot brandy. Apricots are often symbolic of women and beauty.

At the very beginning of the script, Travis is wearing an Army jacket with a patch that reads “King Kong Company”. That in itself hinted to me that Travis is still at war, at least within himself. Around page 50, Travis buys guns and then changes his apartment and puts up newspaper clippings about Palantine, who is running for President. Travis also begins working out and going to the shooting range. It is obvious he is planning something, but it seemed to me like he was preparing for war. There is even a hint of it when he drives around and sees a gang of punks throwing a wine bottle at him. And then he goes into a store, sees a guy robbing it, pulls out a gun and blows his face off. After that he goes to the porn theater like nothing ever happened. This is Plot Point 2, because now Travis has killed someone and there is no going back.

Travis kills his own television set when he rocks it and tips it over during a soap opera scene in which a female actress is rejecting a male. Now he is really beginning to lose it and feeling the loneliness. He shaves his head like he’s still in the army and shows up at a rally for Palantine. He appears to have a plan in mind, but never goes through with anything. But in the next scene when he’s back in his apartment, he says, “The time is coming,” referring to another rally. At times these rally scenes seemed to be like a time filler to complete the 90-pages of the script.

Travis briefly meets Iris, or at least her pimp, who hands the cabbie a $20 bill. Travis is ashamed to use the money, because he knows what the young girl does for it. He later pays to see Iris, but not to have sex. He wants to rescue her, but she doesn’t seem to want to be rescued. Like him, she lives in her own world. When he hands the same $20 bill back to the old man before he leaves, he makes a big deal out of it, and I think it’s because he probably thinks that the money belongs to Iris. He doesn’t view her as scum, because she’s a child, but he does about the pimp and the old guy.

At the end of the script, the voiceover of Travis is all about his loneliness, how he is “God’s lonely man.” He cleans up his apartment in much the same way he’s planning on cleaning up the street trash. He ends up back at a rally and gets chased away by the Secret Service, so he goes to see Iris again and shoots her pimp, the old guy that takes the money, and her customer. Travis also gets shot, but he lives and becomes a hero with his name in headlines for shooting a pimp, and Iris’s parents can’t thank him enough for having their daughter back. Had he shot the candidate, he’d have been labeled a psychotic killer. But since he shot a pimp, everyone viewed him as a hero.

The script’s weak ending is cliché, with Betsy in Travis’s cab saying maybe she’ll see him again, hinting that boy gets girl back. Perhaps the ending meant that Travis is a real person now that he’s a hero and that he’s no longer “God’s lonely man.”

Dr. Bean – an overgrown flop character, lack of structure

Dr. Bean is probably the worst thing I’ve ever had to read in my life. The fact that the movie’s box states: “The Ultimate Disaster Movie” isn’t a joke. I haven’t seen the movie, but reading less than 20 pages of the script made me want to blow my brains out. (Why would any university would have its students waste one moment reading one page of such crap?)

Character:
Although the script intends for him to be funny, Bean’s character is flat and lacks any depth. Why does this character act like such a moron? He’s a grown man acting like a child. The question is never answered, as the script also lacks a circle of being. I felt like I was reading about Pee Wee Herman.

Bean has been pawned off by his coworkers to go to America, apparently because no one wants him around. An overly passive character, Bean accepts and goes to another museum and insists on everyone calling him “Dr. Bean”, which also makes no sense, because he’s not a doctor. It isn’t until the very end Bean is in a hospital scene, but that is purely to fill in the script’s lack of everything else.

Structure:

There is lack of dialogue throughout the script, which leaves very little whiteness on the pages. The first several pages of the script are choppy. The scenes could have been a little longer so it made more sense instead of going back and forth every ten seconds between Bean’s idiocy and the people planning to can him.

At the beginning of the script when Bean hides from the security guards, what was the point of that? It didn’t help the story move forward, there was no dramatic playoff, and there is no mystery at all. It only added more stupidity.

The museum scene with Bean covering the nipples of the women in paintings in front of the schoolgirls was not only unrealistic, but preposterous. He works at a museum yet tries to hide the fact there are nude paintings? Just plain dumb.  He thinks the girls might be offended, or is he offended? Is this the writer’s way of letting us know that Bean is an overgrown creep?

I stopped reading after about page 20. I couldn’t take another minute of my time on this disaster.

The Sweet Hereafter – Bitterness and Greed

The Sweet Hereafter is a terribly poignant movie. There are several underlying themes of the script, including transformation, guilt, regret, blame, revenge, and deceit. But mostly, the entire script is an awful cycle of deceit and blame.

The inciting incident occurs when Mitchell is in the car wash when his phone rings, and his drug-addicted daughter Zoe is on the other end. Incidentally, the blues song that plays at the end of this scene transfers over to the next father-daughter relationship between Nicole and Sam. The following scene takes in an airport bathroom with yet another father diapering his baby girl while Mitchell observes. I believe the writer purposely chose to connect these three things to demonstrate the dynamics of father-daughter relationships, and it also shows us three different lapses of time.

Billy and Mitchell speak at the gas station, and Billy refuses to join in the lawsuit. This gets in the way of Mitchell’s case. He needs Billy to testify, because he is the one that followed the bus that morning, and he is a critical witness. Mitchell gets desperate and even goes as far as blaming television and shopping malls for paralyzing children. (Billy is the only one in the script that points out that the whole town is blaming each other for an accident.)

Each character seems to blame someone else for something. Risa told Mitchell of a drunk man named Kyle feeling trapped by his life and blaming his wife. Later, Mitchell convinces Wanda and Otto that there is no such thing as an accident, that someone is to blame. Wanda, even after dismissing the thought of a lawsuit, begins to look for someone to blame, to go to jail, and then agrees that a lawsuit is the right choice.

Mitchell blames himself for his daughter’s condition. His constant thoughts about the past and his conversation with Alison on the plane shows that he feels regret, and his constant talk about how all of their children are dead reveals that to the audience that his daughter died a long time ago. He had the opportunity once to allow Zoe to die when she was a baby, but he was determined to save her from the spider bite, and he keeps daydreaming about that incident. Is he feeling guilty that he didn’t allow her to die then instead of watching her slowly kill herself with drugs now? Or is he feeling guilty that he no longer has control over helping “keeping her calm and relaxed so that he doesn’t let her little heart beat too fast and spread the poison around”? Zoe blames her father for having to sell her own blood to make money, because he refuses to send her anymore.

Early on in the script, Nicole observed that children made Delores happy. During her deposition, she lied and accused Delores of speeding and causing the crash. On one hand, it seemed as if Nicole viewed Delores as the Pied Piper, taking the children away to a faraway place, some place “strange and new” over the mountain. Nicole was the lame one left behind in a wheel chair, and all of her playmates are gone, just like the poem. On the other hand, it seemed like she did Delores a favor by forcing her to leave town. Nicole also seems to blame herself that she is the only child that lived.

Nicole’s purpose for blaming Delores was also revenge for Sam’s abuse. She knows that Sam wants money, so lied in order to punish him. As Nicole reads the Pied Piper story to the children, she is symbolically reading about herself. As the Pied Piper plays his flute, her own father is robbing his daughter with his incestuous relationship, making promises that he never kept. She ends up using this to her own advantage in the end, taking control of her own life by demanding what she wants and placing blame on both of her parents for what they did or didn’t do. At the same time, Nicole also sees Mitchell as the Pied Piper, misleading the town into believing his lies. She sees right through him. Mitchell blames Nicole for screwing up the entire lawsuit. He sees it going downhill fast, just like the bus did before it crashed. He argues with Sam over Nicole’s testimony and blames him that something isn’t normal about a child that would do such a thing.

The script also hints that Nicole blames herself for allowing Sean to sit next to her on the bus on the day of the crash and making Mason moved to the back. Could Mason have also lived if she hadn’t made that choice? Risa also seems to blame herself for not allowing her son, Sean, to stay home on the day of the crash when he begged her. Coincidentally, Risa was almost run over the same day, and Sean glared at Doris as if she was to blame.

There are a lot of symbolic references in the script. For example, Wendell’s application of enamel on the crack in the tub correlates with the crack in his relationship with his wife Risa. Billy’s shower washes away the enamel, in much the same way he’s taking away whatever it is Risa once had with her husband. Risa replaces the enamel over the crack when Billy leaves the motel – symbolically covering up their affair.

Another symbolic reference is when Sam paints the wheelchair ramp green. He is looking for money, and the ramp is symbolic of what he is looking for in the lawsuit. He later paints it red, which is symbolic of blood – or life – as his daughter was the only child spared in the accident.

Delores equated the children as berries. Children were the fruit of her happiness, and she genuinely cared for them. She refers to them as “my kids”. At one point, she even doubts herself and begins to blame herself that perhaps she could have been speeding on the day of the crash. (Ironically, her husband Abbott and Delores both say that a true jury are the peers in a person’s town.)

By placing the events in a non-linear fashion, it shows the parallel events in each character’s lives. In the end, it all fits together beautifully. The viewers want to know what really happened in with the crash, so by placing it at the end of act two, not only does it cause suspense, but it allows the writer to place the miscellaneous twists and turns surrounding the crash in different perspectives. Each character, even if they don’t leave the town or physically die, ends up in “someplace strange and new”, leaving behind the life they once knew.

The Graduate – What Benjamin Braddock Wants

At the beginning of the script, Benjamin Braddock doesn’t know what he wants except to be left alone. He finds himself lazily lying around the pool with no future goals in mind.  At the pressure of his parents and other adults, Ben begins to worry about his future, as he figuratively and literally drowns out everyone around him by wearing a mask and going underwater in several scenes in order to avoid reality.

At the beginning of the script, Benjamin, although unwilling at first, is passive and tries to please everyone in his own way. It’s not until after the affair with Mrs. Robinson that he begins to change. He sees that Mrs. Robinson is a skillfully crafted, cold-hearted bitch to everyone around her. When he begins to question Mrs. Robinson about her daughter, the woman shows him a side he no longer cares to be a part of. This Ben’s turning point – one of which he begins to realize that he does not want a woman like Mrs. Robinson – instead, he wants someone more innocent like her daughter, Elaine. Once he realizes this, he becomes more aggressive, on the verge of being stalker-like by showing up at Elaine’s school and following her around.

By the end of the script, Ben wants a normal life, which means getting married to a girl that his parents originally tried to force him to date. Like the animal in the cage at the zoo, he is dying to get out, and at the same time, replays imagined things in his head. Once he is out of his cage, Ben is willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. In this case, he wants Elaine. He thinks that marrying her will solve all of his problems. Ben even shows up at Elaine’s wedding ceremony, interrupts it, and runs away with her. At the end, Ben is still trying to avoid his problems by running away.