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4.0 by Dar Adal - Short, Psychological, Thriller - A chronic underachiever must decide if he's willing to kill his roommate, and best friend, in order to receive a perfect Grade Point Average. - pdf, format
First read of the OWC. My thoughts - all completely subjective:
This is certainly an interesting choice of an urban legend and actually a pretty good one to base a script on. I think that the writer missed the opportunity of keeping the premise grounded and turned it into hyperbole. Picking the clearly implausible scenario of the bunch was a bad decision imo.
They already had their exam results and as celebration was about to ensue I imagine it's safe to assume studies were already over. In that case, why would a roommate death magically change his already completed near-perfect GPA to perfect? It would have been so much more plausible that he were to get some special treatment in his studies or exam results if this happened mid-semester or at least before an important exam. Could have played it well that he was struggling with his studies and killed Tyler to have it easier.
Also, the only thing that the script did bring out about the urban legend was that there was an urban legend. To really get the gist of the story, one would have to turn to Google. Definitely a missed opportunity to explain the premise. "You know the profs would get sympathetic." during the urban legend discussion would do the trick.
I also felt that the script went on a few pages too long. I think a good place to cut something would be James's monologue to Tyler before he dies. In my opinion, it's superfluous and The "I used to hate science, but then used it to kill you and here's why I'm doing this..." speech is just cliche that doesn't play to any advantage here.
The opening scene is rather mild. Out of 18 years with his mother, why single out this moment? Whether it's Helen's desire to turn his kid into a prodigy through fear or just never hearing praise, at 7 this should not be his first moment to encounter it, nor the most severe one. I think this scene should play out with a bigger effect.
Unsure about James admitting to everything instantly. Maybe a few action lines about him being dumbfounded or a few lines of dialogue of him trying to get out of it would make it more believable?
That sounds pretty negative so far. Don't get the wrong idea, I didn't hate this. I thought the back-and-forth was enjoyable, the dialogue well written and I could see the overall idea, setting, characters etc. working fine after the polishing touches of a new draft. The premise of cold-blooded murder to advance in studies, brought upon by shitty parents who you were never good enough for, holds water imo. I also liked the idea of incorporating different times into one scene and bringing Helen into the final shot. Congratulations on churning out something for the OWC, Writer. You've done better than me.
At first I was very confused by the scene-within-a-scene flashback things you were using.
But going back and looking at them again, I think you did it right, and it is just the reader's job to keep up. It would be nice if you could find some way to clarify, but I think it would be fine on-screen, and I am not really sure what else you could have done anyway.
No real surprises here. It stretches credulity a bit that his plan is such a crude one -- with no finesse and plenty of witnesses -- as he is supposed to be such a smart guy. But that also works in service to the story, I suppose, with coming totally unhinged.
But you do not get the A+ For a weeks' effort, however, this is a solid B for me.
It was reasonably well written. It was a decent attempt, better than most I've read so far. Still, it doesn't really work. I think you picked an interesting urban legend, but you didn't do quite enough with it. The plan seemed absurd for one, and the idea that his mother would be happy with him made little sense...why would she be? He's been caught, he's failed. Yeah, sure he's mad...but it still doesn't make sense in terms of what you've told us about his mother.
The "science" explanation bit was very unnecessary. There's nothing in the story that it relates to. The story is about high expectations, not science.
I think this is another one that suffers from trying to fit a new story into an already existing story.
Up to page 7 at the moment and feel there is too much exposition. I hate it when the story is revealed through dialogue. Even one line too expositional can take me out of a film or script. You have several. Normally in a read I would skip over one or two lines, but it's quite heavy with this script.
I do like the transitions to flashbacks though. Cleverly written and reminds me of something I was told not to do. However, whoever gave me that advice was wrong. It works well.
See, I used to hate science. Never
understood it. After a while, I
learned to appreciate it.
Now I'm groaning. Here's where the bad guy reveals his motivations. You can do better.
It was OK. The exposition ruined it for me. With some work it could be a good story. Maybe even actually something worth filming... frighten the students with around exam time.
God damn, Eileen must be an Amazon, these girls sure are pretty fucking brave.
Don't know about this one, makes sense if you know the legend, otherwise not really. A build-up would work a little better, and I can't entirely say I like the mother subplot. It seems like you're trying to give the audience a little more reasoning but if not entirely necessary, and doesn't make much sense really. I know it's to meet his mother's expectations but it just feels like such a passive motive. Not a bad effort.
First point to make is that this is pretty well-written, unlike a lot of the ones I've sorted through. I was a little thrown off by the flashbacks as you don't allude to them, so I had to re-read it two or three times to make clear what was going on.
The legend is a decent one, but I think you picked the wrong guy to focus on. Someone who has a 3.91 killing to get to a 4.0? That's a bit of a stretch to me. I think Tyler, with the low grades, should have been the one killing James. I do understand why you took the route you did, but I just wasn't buying it.
It also took a bit too long to get to the point. This could easily have been a 5 or 6 pager and gotten the same effect.
Still, the writing was solid and a very good effort overall.
An utterly mediocre writer who somehow still falls bass ackwards into getting some of his scripts produced.
Well written. The dialogue especially. There was too much of it, however. I agree with Dustin in that sense. Lots of exposition. I also agree with Rick that this is about the UL not the science. I wanted to know more about how exactly you get a 4.0 by killing someone.
I was also wondering why he still tries to please his mother who's been dead for three years? How did she die, btw? Did James have a hand in that. Would give this story some more depth if he did.
I also found this story to be visually uninteresting. Other than the stabbing, this is sort of a talking head piece. which is fine, if that's what you wanted. I'm just trying to think from a filmmaker's angle.
In short. A well written script that needs quite a bit of trimming and a better look at the UL it's based on.
The main problem I have is the coincidence -- when Tyler brings up the urban legend, James has already planted the tack. This particular legend is pretty obscure, which makes the coincidence even harder to buy.
Also, why kill his buddy? Why not, oh, I don't know...somebody else. Or did he hate Tyler anyway?
The interwoven flashbacks would work on screen, yes, but are confusing on the page. I, for one, prefer the standard format for that.
I'd tell you your script is well written (it is), but that seems like a faint compliment, given that most entries are to some degree.
Well, not sure exactly what to say...and what not to say.
But I'll start with this - I sure wish Janet had been my teacher as I was growing up, if she's giving this a 4.0, because that's incredibly lenient in my book.
Couple things to point out that may help going forward.
When you intro your characters and use parentheses for your age, you don't need a comma as well. Either or, but not both (unless a comma is required, based on what follows).
For some reason, you chose to integrate present time and past time together, without using a Flashback, and IMO, that's a big mistake for several reasons - first, it's confusing...no way around that, and second, it's a total case of you trying to direct this, and in a very odd way. To me, it's completely unnecessary and something that could annoy some readers (like me). But, once it's clear what you're going for, it does bring a unique "twist" to the table
Writing is pretty good throughout, but it's a mistake to start with an orphan, in the overwritten first passage.
The story itself is alright, but when really examined, it just doesn't make any sense, probably due to the timeline being used (Helen being dead 3 years).
Pia brings up a great point and it's something I always see as well - for 7 pages, absolutely nothing happens and the banter between the boys is dull and uneventful (well, up to the end of Page 5, when Tyler brings up the UL, we're going to deal with here).
The kill is pretty well handled, but again, just doesn't make sense for a smart dude to think he's going to get away with this, without taking any precautions (and it's clear the kill was planned out ahead of time).
But then the girls burst in and what follows is weak and all filler again. The wrap up didn't do justice to what could have been so much stronger,
So, even though I said all those negative things, I'm kind of on the fence here, as there is definiitely a unique take being displayed here by a writer who knows how to write and isn't afraid to take chances to achieve a different vibe.
I'm going to give you a 3.5, but understand, that's on a 5.0 scale, but it's still heads and shoulders above 80% of the entries.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
A lot of talk here which didn't work for me - and for some reason their talk seems like a repetition, it didn't interest me - I mean the dialog.
How does it work - I may have missed something here, how's killing Tyler would help him with 4.0? Didn't get that part.
For some reason the part where he kills Tyler reads incredibly comedic to me. So that change in tone doesn't work for me. Although I loved this part which means that the stuff preceeding doesn't work and it's 7 or 8 pages.
And a lot of talk there - I think you could cut all that. Dialog flows well though - obviously you are very good with dialog.
I thought this one was pretty good all around. The way the flashbacks intermingled with reality might be confusing for some, but I liked it. I wonder if you could utilize it more to suggest that Jamesí mom is still alive. Itís revealed she died, but I never really considered it a twist. The only major gripe is the plan. Why go through the trouble of paralyzing Tyler if heís just going to stab him? Wouldíve liked to see a convincing accidental death set-up that got foiled. And after reading the comments, I agree this needs to happen before his grades come in. Maybe he's done the math and realizes he'll never make it.
This might not have done much to twist the legend, but I think itís one of the stronger ones Iíve read.