Monday, April 06, 2009

Hidden Meaning of THE WIZARD OF OZ

When we think of THE WIZARD OF OZ we think of a fun kid’s story about a farm girl named Dorothy and her little dog Toto who are whisked away by a tornado to a magical kingdom populated by fantasy characters and she must sing and dance and skip down the yellow brick road to see the Wizard so that he can use his special powers to send her back home... to Kansas.

What we don’t think of is an economic treatise on the importance of maintaining the gold standard even in the face of rapid deflation, and the bureaucratic issues of early 20th century politics. You probably wouldn’t see the Tin Man as symbolic of the industrial worker and the Scarecrow as symbolic of the small time farmer and the Cowardly Lion as politician William Jennings Bryant who was endorsing the Silver standard instead of gold.

Okay, all of that is about to change... because THE WIZARD OF OZ isn’t really some fun kid’s story, it has a hidden meaning...

The True Story Behind The Wizard Of Oz!

What's the hidden meaning in *your* script?

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Forward Momentum and superheroes... and DAREDEVIL.
Yesterday’s Dinner: A massive burrito.

Movies: Saw ADVENTURELAND Friday night (is that the sequel to SAW where the college kids wake up at a crappy theme park handcuffed to a game, and have to eat a bunch of bad corn dogs to escape?).

The film is a coming of age story, not an Apatow stoner comedy, even though it was directed by the guy who directed SUPERBAD. Though it’s not a crazy comedy, I think it has enough funny stuff to entertain someone who thought it would be SUPERBAD 2 - ELECTRIC BUGALOO. The hero’s crotch punching ex-best friend is always doing something funny and just plain wrong, and Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig manage to be funny and still remain real characters. There is enough comedy to keep that SUPERBAD audience watching... while the story and characters suck them in.

Story in a nut shell: James (Jesse Eisenberg) has to skip his summer Europe trip and get a job when his parents run into hard times. Before the hard times, his family was upper middle class, so James has never had a real job... his resume consists of editing his school literary magazine and mowing a neighbor’s lawn when he was a kid... So he ends up working at a crappy theme park where he learns about just about everything important in life. Oh, and it's a comedy so he's also trying to get laid.... since he is branded with "The Scarlet V".

James would like to work Rides, where the cool kids work... but ends up working Games with all of the other social misfits. There he meets uber-geek Joel (Martin Starr) and troubled Em (Kristen Stewart) ... and they become the three musketeers of the rigged games at the theme park. James and Em may not seem like they have much in common, but they seem to be at the same place in life at the same time... and a relationship begins to build. James may be able to lose that Scarlet V if he plays his cards right.

Ryan Reynolds plays studly rides repair guy Connell, who becomes Mentor and Friend and... antagonist... to James. Connell is rumored to have once jammed with Lou Reed. He’s married to a hot waitress at the local night club, and all of the gals think he’s dreamy. What’s interesting about this character is that he might have easily become just a good looking villain, but instead he becomes a tragic figure by the end. When you feel sorry for the antagonist, that’s a great movie!

The relationships in this movie were very realistic - messy and screwed up and yet, people love each other and care about each other. There were no clear cut villains, everyone is a shade of gray. And the film is deceptively well written - it seems like things happen naturally, just like in real life, and seems there is no larger plot... except every single scene in the film is there for a reason and every character and moment are actually leading somewhere. This script is so tightly written, so precise, that you can not see any of the plot points. They are there, and once we get to the end of the film, those little moments you thought were throw aways are revealed to be important parts of the overall plot.


The hottest girl working at the theme park is Lisa P (Margarita Levieva), every guy wants to sleep with her. She knows she's hot. She shoots down guys right and left.

There's a little throw away scene where James and Lisa P have a conversation at work. It seems like one of those small, natural, not plot oriented scenes.

Every guy in the park - both employees and customers - hits on Lisa P... but James asks about her parents. She tells him about her dad, who lost his job and is depressed. The conversation has this great built in suspense, because James is a major dork and will eventually blurt out something stupid. He's terrible with women. His awkwardness is funny. And even if James doesn't say something stupid, Lisa P *knows* she's hot and *knows* James is a dork, and she will probably just shoot him down for practice. As they keep talking about Lisa's dad, you keep waiting for James to say something stupid or Lisa to realize she's talking to a loser...

And that tension is entertaining.

What they are talking about is their parents, their relationships with their parents, and themselves. It's all about character. And the most amazing thing about this scene and a few others between the two characters is that Lisa P's dad is a very real character in this film - even though we never see him.

Now, this scene seems like a throw away, but it really is all about the plot - it secretly sets up romantic possibilities between the dork and the hot chick. And those romantic possibilities throw a major curveball into the story and the relationship between James and Em.... this little scene creates a *major* change in the story... but we won't know that until later.

This scene, and all of the dialogue in it, moves the story forward, is entertaining, and reveals character big time. The film is deceptive - you think it’s just a collection of scenes, but really it is tightly plotted and even the smallest moment is there for a reason.


One thing I really liked about the movie - something very difficult to do - are the characters who are *never seen* who you know and care about. Lisa P's dad and Em's mom are never seen on screen, but are parts of the story. These are real people off screen who are just as real to us as the people on screen.

Another thing I liked that very few will notice - one of the guys who interviewed James for a job in the first scenes of the film was a customer in the restaurant scene much later in the film. That made this whole world seem real to me. Kind of a SLACKERS moment - Hey, I know that guy!

And I really liked what wasn't said in the film - the scene with James and his father after James gets drunk and in big trouble... where the father says nothing, but he is the focus of the scene. The great scene with James and Joel in his backyard while the kid is mowing the lawn (some important things are not discussed, but are still in that scene). Even if you came for SUPERBAD, I think you'll still want James and Em to get together... and feel the heartbreak when things don't happen the way they usually do in a Hollywood movie. I liked this movie while I was watching it, and thinking back over it - like it even more. It’s one of those films that sticks with you. Funny and real and heartbreaking and you’ll remember that first really crappy job you had... and the first time you fell in love with someone who had many more problems than you have.

There’s some dried puke over there, could you clean it up?

- Bill


Dave Shepherd said...

Also saw it this weekend, and I think your review was spot-on. I went in expecting something like Superbad, and though it wasn't as funny, I liked it more.

Well written, well acted. While you can pin point a lot of films down to three or four big moments, this one was a collection of little moments. And it worked.

Amadeus Amadeus!

ObiDonWan said...

I didn't see SUPERBAD but you sold me on seeing this. Even on Martha's Vineyard where the average movie is a Sundance reject.

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