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Dan In Real Life – turning French gold into Hollywood straw – dialogue

Just laugh a lot - they'll think it's funny

Just laugh a lot - they'll think it's funny

Dan In Real Life – Peter Hedges

An imaginary phone call – Juliette Binoche and the film’s, imaginary Producer Mr Faeed. Setting up her role in this movie.

MF Hey Jools

JB Pardon?

MF S’me. Al.

JB What did you call me?

MF Jools. It’s just a pet name baby.

JB (icily) Pet? You call me a cat or a dog?

MF Cool it Jools.

JB Don’t call me Jools.

MF Chill baby.

JB Don’t call me baby.

MF What shall I call you – Julie?

JB Ms Binoche will be fine.

MF Aw c’mon Ms B if we’re gonna work together, you gotta get used to the American way of doing things.

JB Why?

MF Well this is a laid back movie about a sexy older French chick with the cutest little accent, who spends an excruciatingly embarrassing weekend with a typical extended American family. It’s culture shock baby. A hoot.

JB Culture shock I understand. I’ve read the script. And call me baby again and you’ll regret it.

MF That’s it! That feisty French chick stuff really plays.

JB Cat, dog, chicken…make up your mind. Then get lost.

MF Whoa there, Ms B you’re signed to this project remember? And you need it.

Actually no. I told my French agent I needed to fund a private project here in France and he said a successful American romantic comedy would pay well.

MF And this is it Joo….Ba… er Ms B. We’ll make a mint. Just read the script.

I have.

MF And?

JB How do you say in America….. you’re pulling my chain?

MF That’s it. You’re getting the idioms already. We’ll make an American of you yet.

JB You’re an idiot.

MF Maybe madame…but I’m the idiot with the million bucks. So how about we discuss anything you’re unhappy with.

JB Very well. Where shall I start?

MF From the top.

JB D’accord. Don’t make plans for tonight.

MF Don’t worry. I’m all yours.

JB I’m thrilled. My main problem is – you left out the funny.

MF Say again.

JB You left out the funny. I play an early forties French woman who dates Mitch, her much younger sexy aerobics teacher and on the way to the weekend from hell to be forensically examined by an extended family tribe of intrusive relations, stop briefly in a bookshop. There I mistake Mitch’s older brother Dan for a bookseller. Obviously, being French I must also be stupid. How do you say… it plays. Dan is a widower and has the charisma of a haddock.

MF Now that’s not fair Ms B. Steve Carell’s great. Didn’t you see the Bruce and Evan Almighty movies?

JB I rest my case.

Look Ms B. Lighten up will ya? This ain’t art house, it’s a US rom-com and the American public will eat it up. Trust me.

JB Mr Faeed you’re doing that thing with what you call my chain again.

MF Lady can ya change the metaphor? You ain’t got no chain… though you sure as hell have got plenty of what goes with one.

JB Pardon?

Skip it. What’s wrong with the bookshop scene?

JB Well I ask very dumb questions about needing a book with no idea what kind of book I want, and Dan just picks up 10 books at random. Throughout this we keep bursting out laughing for no reason as if we’ve known each other for years. What are we falling about laughing AT? What’s funny?

MF Well….. what’s one of the books called?

JB (sighs) ‘Everyone’s Got To Poop.’ That’s it? That’s what we’re corpsing about?

MF Yeah well it’s love at first sight right? You are sympatico if you’ll forgive my French.

JB Words fail you Mr Faeed.

MF How’s that?

Skip it.

MF Look Ms B. You need this. You’re big in France and Europe, but the movie market is global. Gotta broaden your appeal. You’re trapped acting-wise in a narrow niche market. Let me explain, a niche market is …

JB I know what ‘niche’ means.

MF OK. What’s next?

I have no problem with Dan’s 3 girls: Alison Pill I know and will be great as the older Jane; Cara the 15 year-old lovesick one seems a bit of a pain to me but I can see the part could work. And little Lily really is charming.

MF There ya go. Now we’re cookin’.

JB But I still don’t see what’s funny about what happens. In Paris every Summer, everyone flees the city just to escape people like the Burns family. Most French people would eat ground glass in a Big Mac rather than go on a weekend like this.

That’s the whole point Ms B. Culture shock remember? Embarrassing charades, Dan sleeping with the noisy washing machine in the laundry; the early morning aerobics led by Mitch where Dan can stand behind you and ogle your ass. And what about those stretch exercises we have you do with Mitch that look like the enactment of pages 44 to 50 of the Kama Sutra while Dan gets hot? You gotta admit that’s funny.

JB Mr Faeed, I’m not sure we occupy the same planet. But I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.

MF That’s ma girl. By the way, I don’t suppose you’d consider doing the stretches in a bikini top and then at full stretch……

Of course my dear Mr Faeed. That would be fun. Anything for you.

MF That’s great! You’re a real Pro Ms B. We’ll keep it subtle I promise – just a quick flash and……

JB Mr Faeed

MF Yes Ms B.

JB Chains and pulling Mr Faeed. Chains and pulling


JB Moving on. So the basic setting for the comedy is that Mitch tells the family before I arrive that he’s just met a special woman and he then finds out I’m dating his younger brother?

MF Got it in one.

JB About the shower scene.

Thought you’d bring that up.

JB You bet my ass. Is that how you put it?

MF See, you’re really getting the hang of our language.

JB So Dan sneaks into the bathroom while I’m cleaning my teeth to tell me how he feels and then his daughter Jane comes to the door to ask to share a confidence. Dan hides in the shower, Jane comes in sits on the toilet and says she’ll talk while I shower and I therefore I have to strip in the shower in front of Dan.

MF Yeah. Isn’t that neat? We do need this one Ms B and you’ve agreed it. Don’t worry we’ll keep it tasteful.

JB You have no idea what a comfort that is Mr Faeed. But what I don’t get is that we both again think this is incredibly funny. In fact every time you want the audience to laugh it seems to me you just have me or Dan or someone else laughing uncontrollably.

Well it works on TV shows. Laughing is contagious.

JB So is herpes Mr Faeed but its not very funny.

MF Aw c’mon JB have more faith in yourself, I believe in you. You are beautiful, with a Julia Roberts smile, in fact you even look a bit like her at times – how cool is that? Even your accent is funny; just ham it up a lot. Work the face, milk the lines, fall about laughing a lot. Trust me it will work. They’ll love it.

JB Merde!

MF How’s that?

JB French idiom for that’s cool.

There ya go.

This isn’t by any chance secretly an Orange mobile phone ad is it?

MF No mam.

JB One last thing Mr Faeed. At the end when Cara accuses her father of not understanding what love is? He says the feeling she has is not love. And she says “love is not a feeling…it’s an ability”?

MF Yeah. And your point is?

Can you tell me what it means?

MF Well it’s kinda deep ya know Ms B. Deep stuff about love is supposed to rattle around in the head a while ya know.

JB Yes I see that. A bit like a marble in a biscuit tin I suppose. Anyway, I’m just a little Frenchwoman – what would I know about such things?

MF Aw c’mon on Ms B. Don’t do yourself down. Sometimes these things defy explanation.

JB Oh I do so agree Mr Faeed. Two million or I’m out.


JB I don’t have a chain Mr Faeed, remember? Pounds.

MF Maybe not Ms B, but you’re a real ball-breaker. Done.

JB Now that’s an American expression I rather like. Au revoir.

MF Whatever.

I so wanted to like this movie. And not just because of my perhaps over-shared attraction to beautiful French actresses which certainly includes Binoche (though I’m still true to Julie). And to be even-handed, people close to me liked it a lot. Perhaps ok as a date movie or an undemanding bit of fun if say Meet The Fockers and sight gags like canine cushion-shagging floats your boat. But for me it is depressing to see an actress of Binoche’s quality forced to ham-up and mug a role so badly written, so lacking in wit or style, that she has no alternative. I can even imagine, just, Steve Carell doing droll with writing that’s up to it. But everyone here except perhaps for the wonderful Diane Wiest who has one or two nice one-liners, is constantly overplaying to make-up for a poor script. The film shouts ‘like me’ ‘like me’ throughout – unsuccessfully in my case. Juliette Binoche tries so hard but just looks either as actress or as character, as if she has been transported to a different planet where she understands the words but not what they are suppose to express.

As I have argued before, something seems to happen to the inner energy, the physical comfort and grace, of actors and actresses playing outside their own language e.g Penelope Cruz was superbly at home in Spanish in Volver. American Directors also seem to have no idea how to capture the talent of especially French actresses: e.g Emmanuelle Béart in Mission Impossible; Audrey Tautou in The Da Vinci Code; and Binoche here. Honourable exception I suppose is Richard Linklater with Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise and After Sunset. But then Linklater is a very European-style director in many ways.

This was meant as a bit of fun. A touch malicious perhaps but not meant to be seriously so. Put it down to my January liverishness. Hope it wasn’t tedious

(July 2008)

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