I find it difficult to judge a script in terms of plot structure and narrative flow and such. It’s not something I’m as knowledgeable about as I’d like to be. Example: Robert Towne’s screenplay for Chinatown is often cited as one of the all-time greatest, but while the film’s story is very elegantly told, I never went “Whoa, this movie must have one hell of a script” while watching it. So I’m not one to fairly evaluate screenplays on such merits.
But there are other things about screenplays that tend to stand out more. A clever and original plot is one thing that often strikes a chord with me. Based on that, this spot could easily become the domain of one of Charlie Kaufman’s many brilliantly imaginative stories. Adaptation, maybe? Or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?
But no. Let’s go with something else that’s easily identifiable: dialogue. And since nothing here states that it has to be original work, let’s go with a movie adapted from a stage play. More specifically, let’s go with Closer. The screenplay is by Patrick Marber, who also wrote the original play. More than in any other film I can think of, the written dialogue carries Closer like a champ. It’s a great film based mostly on the strength of its words. The directing and camera-work and such don’t stand out much, and while the actors do a very good job, they don’t distract from the plot and themes of the film (like the fun showoff-y acting in Glengarry Glen Ross, for instance). Clive Owen’s doctor character may be frothing at the mouth when he screams at Jude Law’s writer about just what the human heart looks like, but it doesn’t take away from just what he’s saying.
And the dialogue is great. Grand, even. The film’s four characters don’t quite speak the way normal people do. They are more verbose, always coming up on the fly with the kind of biting comments and remarks that only come to us normal people a few hours after the fact. “Oooh, that would have been an awesome thing to say! Why couldn’t I have thought of that at the time?”. There’s a certain rhythm to the way they talk to each other that sucks you right in. If there is one great movie that would be nigh equally great even if one were to just listen to it instead of watching, it’s Closer. Such is the power of its screenplay.