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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rex Reed trashes Factory Girl in the New York Observer:
Clumsily directed by an amateur named George Hickenlooper, Microsoft Word–ed with five-and-dime psychology by three hack writers of no importance, and edited with a Cuisinart, I doubt if it would have been considered slick or glam-sham enough to hold even Warhol’s interest in the days when he stuck the label of high art on everything that popped out of a Polaroid.
This isn't at all fair. Not that I've seen the movie, or will, but George Hickenlooper (whom I apparently went to college with) is by any stretch a veteran director. But more importantly, the writers are not hacks.

Hacks are writers you can count on to turn in a screenplay with a by-the-numbers plot; clear first, second and third acts; a love interest; and likeable characters. They are writers who do not experience writers block because they have disabled their critical faculties. You will not get a brilliant screenplay out of a hack. But you will always get something you can shoot.

Hacks hack it out. They always deliver. That's why you hire a hack. Like a cabbie, they get you there.

No, what the writers of Factory Girl are, in fact, is something else. Based on their credits, they seem to be producers.

It's risky for producers to work on their own projects, I think. Not because producers don't have writing talent; some of them do. They also often have superb critical ability. The problem is that any writer loses perspective on his own work that only time can restore. It is exactly the producer's job, though, to have perspective: to know what's good about a script and what needs fixing, and either motivate the writer to fix it, or fire the writer and hire someone else who can fix it. The problem is, the person who's supposed to guide the writer now is the writer. And who's going to tell their producer that their writing isn't perfect? (Unless, of course, they have a good writing partner.) Based on the horrible reviews that Factory Girl got, it seems like these producers lost perspective on their own work. They should have hired some hacks!

Incidentally, I think the same caveat applies to writer-directors. Many directors are superb writers; but they run the risk of deluding themselves that their scripts are brilliant, because no one wants to disagree with the director. Woody Allen's best work, I think, came from when he was still working with Marshall Brickman. Usually it's a director's job to guide the writer. When the writer becomes the director, he needs to find someone who can stand up to him and guide him. Because who's going to tell the director that his script is no good? It can be a writing partner or a more powerful being such as a studio exec. (George Lucas had to listen to Alan Ladd, Jr., at least for his first few movies.) But you need someone. Or, a lot of time.

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4 Comments:

I'm sick of seeing reviewers (even the audience, but especially the professionals) attack the people behind the movie when it's the movie they should be mad at. It'd be one thing if this guy actually knew for sure who to blame, but he wasn't in the room when they were writing, on set when they were shooting, or in the editing room when they cut it. Unless you know who made what decisions, don't blame anyone. Just point out the flaws.

At least it went beyond the usual tactic of blaming/praising the director for story issues. But it's time to ease up.

Unless we have some reason to believe that this wasn't a genuine effort to tell a story/entertain, then at worst it was a failure of movie-making. Not a failure of talent.

By Blogger Tom, at 4:21 AM  

Most true. Alan Ladd was man we had to thank for Star Wars. George Lucas only create it. Laddie was man to show faith in project. Then he get fired for his trouble!!

By Blogger Olaf Legend, at 5:15 PM  

Who the fuck is Rex Reed? Oh yeah, he's the giy who has never written a film, never directed a movie, never acted on screen (check that, I think he was in a movie playing himself once or twice--and he fucked that up)...

Over and over again it's been proved the what critics know about what audiences like is practically nil at best...

So again I ask, who the fuck is Rex Reed and why the hell would anybody care what he says?

Wake me when Rex Reed writes or directs a film. Any movie at all.

By Blogger Alan Smithee, at 6:28 PM  

I'm just amazed that Rex Reed is still alive. The last time I saw him, he was a guest judge on the Gong Show.

By Blogger Lawrence, at 11:38 PM  

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