One of our favorite underrated movies is Wonder Boys, director Curtis Hanson’s film version of Michael Chabon’s terrific novel. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s heartwarming, and it’s got a livewire Robert Downey Jr., an understated Michael Douglas, a pre-Spider-Man Tobey Maguire, a pre-Xenu Katie Holmes, and Frances McDormand (who requires no qualifications) — and, on top of all of that, Bob Dylan’s Oscar-winning “Things Have Changed.” Yep, Wonder Boys is pretty much a perfect movie — except for one flaw.
“James.” Tobey Maguire’s morose creative writing student is named James. Most of his scenes are shared with Michael Douglas’s free-falling professor character, Grady Tripp. And seemingly every line that Douglas directs at Maguire includes the younger character’s name. “You’re not like my other students, James.” “Jesus, James, you make it sound like we’re in a Tennessee Williams play.” “Trust me, James, when the family pet’s been assassinated, the owner doesn’t want to hear one of her students was the trigger man.” And so on. The Wonder Boys “James” drinking game puts the “Hi, Bob!” drinking game to shame.
Why do filmmakers make this basic mistake so very, very often? It’s just not how people talk. Don’t believe us? Try this little experiment: during your next conversation with a good friend, drop their name into every sentence you say to them. See how long it takes them to give you the stink-eye and start to question your sanity. When you know who someone is, you don’t have to keep saying their name all the time.
All of this leads us to today’s video of the day, in which Dan Nixon, having been alerted to the rather ridiculous number of times that Jason Patric’s Lost Boys character of “Michael” is name-checked in the course of the film, edits the movie down to one minute and thirty-nine seconds of “Michael.” Enjoy.