Saturday, 19 December 2009

Ripley's Believe It Or Not!

By Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszeski.

First Draft, 2005.

I've been intrigued by this screenplay for awhile, as I knew it was based on an old television series and the oddity exhibition and phenomenon. I hadn't seen any of the television show, exhibition/museum content, or read any of the stories behind the scenes. I was just aware of the reputation and nature of the phenomenon. So a screenplay based on that is an interesting idea and an attractive read, not to mention, a possibly strange experience. But did it deliver? The verdict is: it does, however...

The story begins in 1930s New York and centres on Robert L. Ripley, an eccentric man who has gained celebrity status through a newspaper column that chronicles his search for the greatest oddities in the world. His next adventure and potential money-spinning attraction is the mythic tale of the Horn Man, and so with a handpicked entourage of odd and uniquely gifted friends, he heads for China.

The screenplay was an enjoyable read; amusing, eventful, touching and driven by the highly likable, wonderful and unique, Ripley himself. The supporting cast and band of friends were nicely written and executed, each with their own talent and weirdness. It carried a pressing pace, which like the force of Ripley's childlike wonder, and ambition, makes you feel like part of the gang as the scenery and events are passing you by without time to think. However, at the end of an enjoyable, relentless and grounded two-thirds, the story settles into a strange third act and ending, which didn't compliment what had gone before and took things into an unsatisfying direction. This may be the nature of the Ripley television show and therefore my own bias isn't a negative against the screenplay, just my lack of understanding within its wider context.

The story is about the pursuit of the extraordinary and unlikely truths and the ignorance and disrespect that goes into the pursuit of such a goal. Everyone is the Centre of the Universe within their own perspective, but it's wrong to act selfishly without conscience and in disregard of others. Everyone deserves respect, no matter how different.

It was an enjoyable, unique and fast paced read and I'm interested in the film when it comes out in 2011. I may skip the cinema visit and be content with the DVD rental instead, although, that does depend on who will play Ripley (as there's really only one person), and of course, who the director will be...

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