September 6, 2010 9 Comments
Anomalous Material is surely one of the most comprehensive film blogs out there, covering a wide array of everything film related. My blogging buddy Castor came up with a great idea for his 30-Day “Fantasy Pitch” Blogathon – it works like a Fantasy Sports draft, but instead of drafting athletes to make up our teams, about 25 film bloggers drafted actors, actresses and a director for a Hollywood movie pitch featuring the talent we drafted. It was a lot of fun seeing who everyone drafted and their reasons why. Since last week, each blogger/fantasy producer has been making his/her Hollywood pitch (one a day), complete with loglines, background information, themes covered and plot outline. They have been great fun to read – creative, intelligent, marketable, and unique (something Hollywood is lacking in spades if you look at what we just had to pick from this past summer).
I really love the cast I selected (and I entered the Draft pretty late actually) and the director I chose, who I think is ideal for the sort of movie I came up with. So I thought I would post my movie pitch here on the Lantern. If you would like to go directly to the link on Anomalous Material, just click here — there have already been a number of comments from my film blogging brethren and you can also get a look at the impressive website that Castor and Red have.
Here is my pitch posted on the Anomalous Material Film website: if you actually take the time to read this, I would very much like your comments and some honest feedback. Is this something you would see in the theatres? On DVD? Not at all? Let me know!
A family drama that examines the reuniting between Lenny, an aging father (who suddenly finds himself a widower) and his youngest son Frankie (a troubled single man in his mid 30’s), who is just beginning to put his life together after making some harmful mistakes in his past. Frankie talks his reluctant father into going on a journey that takes them across the States and into Europe – with the two growing to understand and appreciate one another as they never have before. We watch Lenny try to simultaneously cope with his heart-breaking loss and the introduction of Aniseh, a divorcee, who shows great compassion for him. Trouble awaits the two however, when they return home.
I understand that this material does not make for a thrilling summer blockbuster film. But that is not what this movie is. As a producer or director, I would personally want to produce/direct the films that would interest me as a movie-goer. I’m not so interested in CGI or explosions…3D extravaganzas or superhero flick budgets. I am interested in a well-crafted story with terrific performances, where complex characters communicate and interact with one another and are forced to make difficult decisions. To me, that is high drama. This should be a poignant family drama – and I have secured the ideal director to bring his sure and subtle hand to this project, Swedish filmmaker, Lasse Hallstrӧm (My Life as A Dog, Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, and Once Around).
THE CAST & MAIN CHARACTERS
AL PACINO — my first draft pick and who I think is our greatest living actor working today. Mr. Pacino plays Lenny Gravini, a man in his late 60’s who has just lost his wife of over 40 years and now does not know what to do with himself. A blue-collar worker all his life, Lenny was a strong provider for his family…a good husband and father. The film is centered on him (it’s a vehicle written with Pacino in mind) – how he deals with the complicated relationships he has with his three sons (with Frankie, in particular), the loss of the only woman he has ever truly known, and the all of the new components that are suddenly introduced into his life.
ADRIEN BRODY — I think he would make the perfect son for Pacino, in both looks and demeanor. Here, he plays Frankie, the youngest of 3 sons to Lenny and Renata. Frankie has always been smart, but never did things the conventional way. He dropped out of college, started working at a job he hated – and was arrested for stealing money. He spent some time in prison and is seen as the “black sheep” of the family, though his heart is usually in the right place. Now, he lives in a small apartment by himself, working a modest clerical job and putting the pieces of his life back together. He is quiet, but dynamic. I’d like to see Brody get back to making some exceptional films as he did a few years ago.
JESSICA LANGE — The lovely Ms. Lange plays Renata, Lenny’s wife who has died of cancer at the film’s opening. Scenes with her are shown throughout the film (1) in flashbacks and (2) when Lenny speaks to her ghost in present time. Renata was a loving housewife and mother, but had a severe anxiety disorder and wrestled with own mental demons, causing much angst and torment to the four Gravini men. Ms. Lange is a favorite of mine and I chose her over Diane Keaton to avoid the Godfather references — and because I think Lange and Pacino would make for a very captivating duo.
SANAA LATHAN – plays Frankie’s girlfriend, Dalanie. She is a free spirit and loves Frankie very much, accepting him wholly, warts and all. She gives Frankie the room he needs when he takes to travelling with his father, but meets up with the two later. She has yet to meet any member of Frankie’s family and when she finally meets Lenny, she handles his old-fashioned racist views with grace, understanding and an open heart. I think the very versatile Ms. Lathan (terrific in Wonderful World) is a New York born actress who I certainly believe will start garnering more and more attention in the coming years — talented and simply stunning.
SHOHREH AGHDASHLOO – along their travels, Lenny and Frankie stumble on Aniseh, a divorcee who is on vacation by herself. She and Lenny strike up a conversation and instantly take a liking to each other, though Lenny is completely out of practice in the art of speaking to single women. Aniseh is a cultured, worldly, strong and intelligent woman. She is independent and works as a high-powered executive in a highly reputable marketing firm. She is beautiful and mysterious and throws Lenny completely off guard. An Oscar nominee with a commanding presence, I think Ms. Aghdashloo fits this role perfectly and would make for a very intriguing partner for Pacino.
BILLY CRUDUP — Joseph has a snooty wife and two small kids of his own. He is a success in the financial industry and does very well for himself. Joseph has outward resentment towards his dead mother and stopped feeling bad for his father a long time ago. He seemingly wants nothing to do with his brothers or his father and when Frankie goes to him for help or advice, he is reluctant to give either.
The central themes that the film touches upon are: family, coping with death, second chances, issues of race, love, loyalty, and experiencing new/wondrous encounters.
PLOT BREAKDOWN — ACT ONE
We open on Frankie (Brody) and his daily life – frustrated working a futile job in a cubicle, meeting with his parole officer at a local coffee shop, coming home to his small and unimpressive apartment. He is in the midst of trying to put his life back together. The only true happiness we see in him is when he is with his girlfriend, Dalanie (Lathan). They have a quiet dinner together and we see them together in bed. They speak of their future(s) and family, a subject that Frankie tiptoes around a bit. Dalanie is bright-eyed and optimistic – she wants Frankie forever, warts and all. They make love before turning in for the night. The following morning, Frankie is getting ready for work. It is very early and he is half-awake. Dalanie is still in bed, though awake as she converses with him. The phone rings. It is Lenny, Frankie’s father. He has called to tell Frankie that his mother has passed away. Frankie is paralyzed with shock.
The wake and the funeral of Renata Gravini. The main focus is on Lenny (Pacino), trying his hardest to get through it all. He is frozen and numb, looking older than he really is. Some relatives and neighbors pay their respects; he remains quiet & polite throughout, unsure of how to act. Lenny’s oldest son is apparently too far away and too busy to attend the funeral of his own mother (though sends a nice flower arrangement in his absence). Joseph (Crudup), the middle son, is there with his wife and 2 small kids (Lenny’s grandkids). Joseph is brusque and unsympathetic; he and his family can’t wait to get back into the car and back on the road. Frankie is not there for the wake – and shows up by himself at the funeral, but remains off in the distance. Lenny notices him from afar…and he is glad.
The aftermath of the funeral and Lenny at home. He is alone now for the first time in his life. He and Frankie have a talk – just small talk as both don’t really know what to say. Frankie is very compassionate, but not sure what to say/how to act. Lenny assures his youngest son that he is ok (he is lying) and Frankie goes. The next scenes are of Lenny completely helpless in an eerily empty house: making tuna sandwiches for dinner and eating quietly by himself, not knowing how to do his own laundry, watching TV in silence just for something to do, seeing mail made out to his deceased wife, cleaning the house in an awkward fashion, etc. Flashbacks of Renata (Lange) also take place here and we see Lenny having conversations with his dead wife in the empty house. Frankie calls to check in on him – he says he is fine. However, little by little he is letting himself go. He doesn’t know what to do with himself.
Late one night, Lenny impulsively gets into his car and drives. He drives quite a way and pulls up to Frankie’s apartment complex, but sees that it is late and decides not to go up to his door. He tries to get comfortable and passes out for the night. Early the next morning, Frankie notices his father’s car – approaches it and sees his father asleep. He taps lightly on the window and realizes the state his own father is in. Frankie knows that his father needs his help. He invites him in to his home.
SEEING THE STATES!!! This act focuses on Lenny & Frankie travelling the country. Lenny has never been anywhere and never really seen anything in the world. The two speak of always wanting to go to Cooperstown together (they share a love for baseball), but never did because of Renata. Renata and her disorders always kept Lenny from doing much of anything in his life and Frankie sees this as a new beginning. On the morning Frankie sees his father sleeping in his car, he very hastily decides to take his father to Cooperstown for a couple of days (he calls his work for the time off). From Cooperstown, the feeling is contagious and before they know it, the two are travelling to various landmark locations across the country – Lenny is living a new life and the two are certainly bonding throughout. Frankie checks in with Dalanie sporadically and Renata is still making her ghost-like appearances, though the mood grows more upbeat throughout. Lenny and Frankie see Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, National Parks, a baseball game in Los Angeles; they go to Washington DC and even Disney World! The two touch on many subjects and become best friends in a way. Frankie speaks of his relationship with Dalanie, but neglects to mention that she is black. It is important that we see Lenny being somewhat uncomfortable at the beginning of this journey and feeling a bit guilty, but slowly opening up and enjoying himself as time goes on. After a couple of weeks, the two return home.
Frankie goes back to his “normal” life, but wants to do more for his father. He goes to his brother Joseph for help and counsel. Frankie sees Joseph at his place of work — Joseph does extremely well for himself and is a great financial success (he always resented his mother and feels little love for her, if any at all. As far as his father goes, he stopped feeling sorry for him a long time ago). Frankie asks if Joseph could take his father in for a little while – until Frankie can take care of him. Joseph emphatically rejects this offer and in the end, is no help to Frankie.
Frankie visits his father and brings Dalanie with him for dinner. Lenny is very old-fashioned and doesn’t even realize his own racism, however subtle. Her being black throws Lenny off a bit and he even makes a few politically incorrect remarks, unaware of the faux pas. Dalanie takes it all in with tremendous grace and understanding – she is all heart here. Talk of their recent travels spurs on another impulsive decision — Frankie says that all three should go to Europe. Frankie tells both to leave everything to him (money/expenses – and his parole officer). He just has a few things to take care of and they can go by next week. The following week, all three are at the airport and on their way to their first stop – Milan, Italy.
SEEING EUROPE – AND SUFFERING THE CONSEQUENCES. Frankie ignores his parolee status and tells the two he has taken care of it. The three see the sights of northern Italy – Milan, Florence, Venice. They take an overnight train to Paris. When Lenny insists that Frankie and Dalanie go off together for a while, Lenny meets with the beautiful and mysterious Aniseh (Aghdashloo). She is an executive and a divorcee who is travelling by herself. Lenny and Aniseh spend the day together – it is the first time Lenny has ever been with a woman other than Renata. The two couples dine that evening and the feeling could not be happier. Lenny and Aniseh spend a lot of time together in Paris. She tells them of a home in northern France that is available. Before the trio leaves for home, they all decide to buy the house and live in France for good – nothing is keeping them at home and they are so happy here. Plus, Aniseh would be just a train ride away to see Lenny.
Back home – Lenny and Frankie are prepping to move to France for good. When Frankie heads back to his apartment by himself, he is arrested for stealing money once again (money he used to pay for their travels). Lenny is unaware of this. Joseph comes to see Frankie in jail and finally shows some sympathy by bailing his younger brother out. Frankie is going away for a few years this time. He doesn’t regret any of it this time. He feels that it was all worth it. Lenny comes to see Frankie and Frankie insists that Lenny move without him…that he’ll catch up with him before he knows it. Lenny refuses to do it – until Dalanie insists he take her with and the two of them will wait for Frankie’s release.
In the end, we see Lenny moving into his new home in France with Dalanie – the woman he initially thought was no good for his son just because she is African-American. Aniseh comes to visit and break in the new home – and Renata makes a final appearance with her husband, giving Lenny the closure he has so desperately needed.