Writing Challenge: False Climax / Low Point

You need to see “Booksmart” if you haven’t. It puts me in such a good mood to watch this movie. Every person is perfectly cast. It does such a good job of bringing the progressive, modern day voice of today’s teens without feeling false or pandering. It also has one of my absolutely favorite Low Points in a film. You are so invested in Molly and Amy’s friendship in this story that watching it fall apart for even two minutes is heartwrenching.

That’s exactly what you should be feeling in this sequence. The False Climax / Low Point starts with the protagonist(s) appearing to achieve their goal or about to achieve it. For Molly and Amy, the goal is to go to this party. That dream goal will then come crashing down in the climax, which is the Low Point. As mentioned previously, the False Climax connects to whatever the goal was that was established at the end of Act One. Then the Low Point connects directly to something that came up in the Midpoint. In “Booksmart”, at the end of the Midpoint we learned that Molly has a crush on Nick. This is incredibly important, because it is this turn of events that causes everything to come crashing down for our two heroines.

The Breakdown

Set Up
– Molly and Amy walk up to the front door of Nick’s house party. Nervous, they hold each other’s hands and say “love you” as they go inside.
– The party is insane. Nick spots Molly. Their eyes lock and she imagines a beautiful and romantic dance between the two of the them.
– They see Ryan (Amy’s crush). Molly encourages Amy to go for it, which Amy does, while Molly runs into Gigi, miraculously dry after earlier.
– Amy hangs with Ryan. Ryan is thrilled that Amy is there. Amy is surprised that Ryan knows anything about her.
– Nick gives Molly a hard time for coming to his party. He’s thrilled and invites her to play drinking games.

Action
– Nick and Molly have fun. She’s pretty good at beer pong. Nick gives her credit and Molly feels like she’s making progress with him.
– Ryan wants a resistant Amy to sing karaoke. Amy does and everyone applauds as she lets herself enjoy the moment.
– Nick guesses Molly’s Harry Potter houses. She’s beyond taken with him, agreeing to hold in place while he goes to handle something.
– Ryan and Amy go skinny dipping. Amy feels incredible and free, the most we’ve seen her in the film.

Climax
– Amy looks for Molly, tells her she wants to leave. Molly isn’t listening, too excited about Nick. Amy says “Malala” – their code word. Molly still refuses to go.
– The girls get into a huge argument with Amy saying Molly is too controlling and Molly saying Amy is indecisive. Amy reveals she’s going to Africa for a whole year, not just a summer.
– Molly is furious that Amy has been hiding this from her. They launch into saying inaudible, but terribly and hurtful words to one another. Amy eventually walks away.

Resolution
– Amy goes to the bathroom where Hope is hiding out. Hope makes fun of Amy for being Molly’s sidekick. Amy insults Hope and is so enraged… she winds up kissing Hope. Suddenly, they’re making out.
– Molly sits alone. Jared joins her and tells her about his own friendship with Gigi, saying how not everyone gets a friendship like “Molly and Amy” have. Molly realizes that Jared is not as weird as she thought.
– Amy and Hope are hooking up with Amy trying to act as though this isn’t her first real experience… and she accidentally puts her finger in Hope’s butt.
– Amy tries to recover but isn’t feeling so well. She throws up and Hope yells at her to just go.
– Molly looks for Amy. She sees Nick and Ryan making out and realizes she was wrong about her fight with Amy.

One thing I really appreciate about this sequence, and so many others in this film, is that they take a moment to give us a real “resolution” at the end of each sequence that lets us know where are characters are emotionally. A lot of times, especially depending on the genre, the resolution of one sequence is the set up for the next. You could argue that Molly seeing Nick and Ryan together sets up the next sequence, but what happens with Amy is decidedly part of the Low Point. All of her actions in that bathroom come out of sexual frustration with Ryan and the argument that she just had with Molly, that Hope echoed in her insults towards Amy.

Another thing I like about this sequence is the use of the code word “Malala.” The word is established early in the night of their journey, but you see how much it means. For Molly to reject Amy’s use of the word tells you about how much Molly thinks she’s right and doesn’t care how Amy is feeling in that moment. It is a simple tool used brilliantly to make the audience hurt as much as Amy does by her friend betraying her in that moment.

In a lot of ways, this sequence could be the best in your film. The highs and lows that your character feels can appear bigger than what you’ll see in the third act, and they arrive back-to-back so they may feel more impactful. This is the moment where you realize how strong your writing is, because if you don’t make them feel here then they’re not going to be invested in the last twenty minutes of your movie.

Happy Writing!

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