Sunday, June 3, 2012

HITCH - A Moral Premise Analysis

Director: Andy Tennant
Writer: Kevin Bisch
Budget: 70MM, Domestic Gross 177MM
Gene: Romantic Comedy
LogLine: A secretive "date doctor," Hitch, struggles to find his game when smitten by a gossip columnist, Sara.

WILL SMITH - Alex 'Hitch" Hitchens
EVA MENDES - Sara Melas
KEVIN JAMES - Albert Brennaman
JULIE ANN EMERY - Casey Sedgewick (Sara's friend)
ADAM ARKIN - Max (Sara's boss)

As in road stories and buddy movies, Romantic Comedies match-up a man and a woman as both protagonist (of their own story) and antagonist to the other's story. Usually one or the other ends up being the lead, but in HITCH things are well matched. In the interest of space and time, this analysis will focus mostly on Hitch and the 13 MAJOR BEATS discussed elsewhere in this blog and various other books, including The Moral Premise.

1. Life Before:
We begin with Hitch lecturing us on the principles behind male-female relationships. He's telling us the secrets of his success as a date doctor.

And, we discover that Hitch and Sara are happily single and that they have their reasons. Notice that neither of them think they WANT a significant other in their lives. Yet, we can see they both do need someone in their lives. They're incomplete. Notice also that their jobs are as opposed to any union as are their personalities. She tells secrets (she's a gossip columnist with a name to promote), he keeps secrets (he's a date doctor with no name). This sets up the Nicomachean moral premise for HITCH:

(The vice) Keeping too many secrets or exposing too many secrets
leads to
(The negative consequence) distrust and isolation; but
(The virtue) Sharing the truth in confidence
leads to
(the positive consequence) trust and companionship.

Hitch lives at the absence of the virtue (he doesn't share much of anything). Sara lives at the excess of the virtue (she shares everything). She spills the beans; he hides them. She thinks men hate women, he only works with men who love women. Hitch is trying to get men and women together, Sara is excited about helping them to split up.

Notice also during this sequence of Act 1A it's made clear to us that they are two people that have "convinced" themselves that they don't need another. Hitch is wrapped up in helping guys succeed with girls while telling his brother-in-law that such relationships are not "meant of everybody." And Sara makes it clear "I don't have time for a boyfriend."

2. Inciting Incident
Hitch discovers is challenged to hit on a girl in a bar. He goes home without her, however.  (Ideal 14 min. Actual 12)

3. Hitch Rejects the Journey...
...of going after a girl (the journey he's called to at 2.) He embraces the idea that with "no guile, and no game, there's no girl." But we sense he's unhappy about that. Yet he helps Albert, who is born without a game. (At 19 min Hitch decides to help Albert on his journey, and in that process we hear arguments that suggest Hitch should go on a journey for himself. One such line that reflects that happened at the Inciting Incident is Albert telling Hitch, "You know what it's like getting up every morning feeling hopeless?"

As soon as Hitch gets Albert to first base (and a first date with Allegra) we can now introduce Sara to Hitch. It begins at 26 minutes when Hitch notices Sara in the bar.

4. Act 1 Climax. 
Hitch crosses the bar (foreshadowing the threshold of the following scene) and approaches Sara with drinks in hand, only to be beaten by an amateur pickup artist that Hitch confronts and dismisses. He gets to know Sara a little bit (that she's a "gossip columnist at the Standard" but he keeps his real job ("consultant") a secret. (Ideal 28 min, Actual 28 when he first speaks to Sara. We see Hitch's game on in this scene, and a very different game that he uses on Sara in Act 3.  

5. Act 2A - Using the Negative side of the Moral Premise but Not Getting Anywhere.
Hitch goes after Sara, crossing the courtship threshold for real, using the negative side of the moral premise... keeping from Sara who he is or what he does. But he gives Munson his business card, which eventually will break open the veil of secrecy and doom him at the end of Act 2.) He pursues Sara, but there are secrets that don't make their courtship that successful, like who Sara's Great, great, great grandfather was "The Butcher" (it's a reverse of the secret he kept from her and she returns the favor by revealing a bit ore about her family secrets. Bummer!) Had Hitch told Sara where they were going, she might have mentioned ahead of time her relative The Butcher and who he really was, thus saving Hitch's game plan from grand embarrassment on the island. Nonetheless, Hitch assumes his principles of male-female relationships are still true, and he pursues a second date, to make up for the first one.

6. Moment of Grace. Hitch is confronted by Sara's boss at the Food Rave about his relationship to Allegra Cole and Albert Brennaman. Hitch dodges at first, but now recognizes what's going on. Max's next question has to do with what Hitch does, to which the chef's assistant comes by to serve them oysters. Hitch has an allergic reaction to the oysters and, as he's choking to death, manages to say: "You think that I’m in a stressful state...because I’m trying to make a good impression...while also dealing with my commitment issues...trying to avoid all these awkward conversations." Upon which Max's wife (the psychiatrist) says: "I think you're having an allergic reaction, which is exactly right, in two ways, physically to the oysters, and psychologically he's having an allergic reaction to Max's questions. Thus, a beautiful metaphor is made. Notice also that the allergic reaction to the Oyster throws Hitch off his game (as they trot off to the drug store to buy on the story's supply of Benadryl), and it reminds us of the first time Hitch's game was thrown a curve on Oyster Island (Ellis Island) when Hitch introduced Sara to her relative "The Butcher" (whom Hitch thought was like a cook, not dissimilar from the chef at the Food Rave that brings Hitch an Oyster). And finally notice that the allergic reaction has something to do with a woman named Allegra. None of this is coincidence, but 99.8% of the audience will only connect this stuff subliminally. The net result of all this is the Hitch realizes that keeping secrets is NOT getting him anywhere fast. In fact it's thrown him off his name TWICE.  (Ideal 56 min. Actual about 61.5 he knows something is up.)

7. Act 2B, the Protagonist makes progress using the positive side of the moral premise
On the way from the drug store, while drinking the store dry of Benadryl, they have this conversation:
SARA: I bet I can ask you just about anything right now.
HITCH: No. I'm a vault, baby. Locked down.
SARA: What is an heiress doing with a CPA?
HITCH: They're going to the Knicks game.
SARA: Yep, Fort Knox.
HITCH: He loves her so much!
SARA: I'm sure he does.
HITCH: I'm telling you, people search their whole lives trying to find the...reasons that we're here.
SARA: I wouldn't know.
HITCH: You would if you saw it.
SARA: Sometimes it's really hard to see the forest through the sleaze.

And that is Hitch (although he's partially drunk) using the positive side of the moral premise and revealing information in confidence. Does it work?

You bet. She invites him to her apartment and puts him to sleep on the couch. Ta! Da!

Later they begin to share more personal information, in confidence... although Sara, remember is a gossip columnist and he's going to be tempted to not stay too long near the center of the Nicomachean virtue... and reap the negative consequences as we'll see.

But at this point they both have turned the corner in their relationship and their romance takes positive steps.  

Later in this part of Act 2, Sara get's Hitch's business card from Munson, although she doesn't know that the card belongs to Hitch (there's no name....secrets...ah, the antagonistic force of keeping secrets is closing in for the Act 2 climax.) In other scenes, Albert kisses Allegra. Hitch gets third date with Sara lined up. In the meantime Sara has her gay co-worker call the "date doctor" and set up a meeting at the zoo, at which Sara watches from hiding to see who the "Date Doctor" is.

8. Act 2 Climax. Defeat at the Hand of the Antagonistic Force.  
At the zoo, Sara discovers that the Date Doctor is Hitch. She looses it.  Sara's boss tells her not to expose Hitch. Their third date is dinner at his place, and she ends up throwing vegetables at him and storms out. He's clueless. She does as front page story on Allegra, Albert, and Hitch; "Coach of the Year: Can this man get you in bed with Allegra Cole? A Sara Melas exclusive."  But she does and destroys the relationship between Allegra and Albert. This is a perfect example of the two vices of the moral premise that slam together and cause the end of Act 2--a near death experience. She leaves Hitch's place at 87 min. Her expose' story appears at 88 min, essentially killing several relationships. Ideal for this Act 2 Climax is 88 min. Actual Act 3 Climax ends at 88.4 min.

9. Act 3 Begins. Dark night of the soul.  
Sara is sad. She doesn't heed her boss' advice. Albert trashes newsstand when he sees Sara's article, and gets arrested. Hitch and Sara go at it at the speed-dating event that he crashes. It's all about "secrets" or trying to unravel them. It's "Hand to Hand combat".

SIDEBAR: Romantic Comedies (as in most comedies) set up an inappropriate goal. The inappropriate goal is the physical hook -- secretive date doctor chases gossip columnist. The hook is the lie that forces everything else in the story to seriously be truthful. This is "the lie that tells the truth". It's "the impossibility convincing told." The hook is the humorous situation, which, when everybody else in the story takes serious, creates humor. I LOVE LUCY worked totally on this premise. Lucy was always trying things with Ethel that we all knew were impossible -- and Ricky told her so. Seeing Lucy taking herself seriously in a stupid situation, and seeing Ricky reacting like we were, was what was funny, especially when Lucy get the last laugh through something that was always there but we didn't see. And the surprise ending was never the hook. It was just kept secret from the audience, and usually from Lucy, too.

This speed-dating scene is a perfect example. Both Sara and Hitch are so serious, they're mad. But the situation is hilarious, because the filmmakers surrounded Sara and Hitch with a naturally funny setting--speed dating for the inept, the insecure and the dating-invalids. It's also a good example of foreground and background action, both reinforcing the moral premise while advancing the story on two levels. Essentially the background chatter is either the inner dialogue of the foreground actors, or an explanation of the metaphors taking place. Example:

BACKGROUND MAN: "I did ice climbing once."
(a metaphor for what is going on in the foreground as Hitch is climbing an iceberg named Sara)

BACKGROUND MAN: "The sun comes up, the ice really starts to fall apart."
(when the truth be told relationships fall apart).

BACKGROUND MAN: "Basically, I like outdoors sports; but indoor sports have their place, too."
(Sara and Hitch's first date was an outside sport on personal watercrafts on the Hudson. What they're doing now uses personal attack-crafts in a small room.)

BACKGROUND MATRON: "This is really kind of distracting. And I haven't gotten laid in a year!"
(Actually, that's true of most everyone in this room. Thank you for that insight.)


Moving along. Part of Act 3A is a Chris Vogler beat called "Resurrection." In HITCH this beat occurs when Sara comes to Hitch to apologize. But he's leaving town. Albert comes to commiserate and challenges Hitch to walk the talk. Albert is in love and he challenges Hitch to that same goal.
ALBERT: "You're selling this stuff, but you don't believe in your own product."
HITCH: Love is my life.
ALBERT: No. Love is your job. (99.7min)
This is something that Hitch began to learn back at his MOG, but now he sees it more deeply. And so, Hitch springs into action.

On Allegra's yacht, Hitch confesses all to Allegra and then Albert and Allegra make up.

10. Final Incident. 
Hitch goes to Sara's apartment and at her front door his game is way off. She enjoys seeing him that way. He asks her to close the door, when he really fumbles. But then she opens it and he see's there's another man in her apartment helping Sara leave her apartment for a trip. This is the final attack by the antagonistic force (KEEPING SECRETS) that Sara doesn't immediately share the truth with Hitch about. (Ideal about 102 min. Actual begins at 104 min.)

11. Final Battle.
Hitch chases after Sara in the street, and almost gets himself killed jumping on the car.
SARA: Are you trying to get yourself killed?
HITCH: If that's what it takes....because that's what people do. They leap and hope to God they can fly. Because otherwise we just drop like a rock wondering the whole way down: "Why in the hell did I jump?" But here I am, Sara, falling. And there's only one person that makes me feel like I can fly. That's you.

12. Victory.  (GAME ON) The kiss...
 And then (and only then) does Sara introduce the man... Tom, her sister's husband. Sara and Hitch kiss again, for real.  

13. Denouement: Allegra and Albert's wedding. Hitch: "The basic principles? There are none."  (see he started out telling us there were secret principles. now he admits that the best policy is not to keep secrets.)  End song, "Now that we've found love, what will we do with it." 

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