Learning from the movies

by - February 27, 2012

Show, don't tell. I'm constantly struggling with this one, but movies can often provide good examples of how to show without telling.

Recently I watched Crazy, Stupid, Love, and right near the beginning of the film is a scene of a teenager babysitting a girl. The teenager mucks about with the girl, chasing her around the living room, where the girl accidently knocks over a framed photo. There's the sound of glass breaking. The teenager tells the girl never mind, she'll look after it, and the girl bounces off. Alone, the teenager picks up the photo. It's a picture of the married couple she's babysitting for, and the glass has splintered down the middle. Slowly, the teenager slides her hand across the glass to cover up the wife's image.

It's a really short scene, but it shows so much:
  • The  teenager isn't too grown up; she's still just a big kid
  • She has a crush on the dad
  • She's rather sweet and naive
And of course the splintering of the glass down the middle of the photo echoes the previous scene where the married couple are having one of those awful 'date night' dinners where they have absolutely nothing to talk about.

In fact during this dinner the wife (Julianne Moore) tells her husband (Steve Carell) she wants a divorce. The audience doesn't see this bombshell being dropped. All we see is the couple driving home after the dinner and the husband choosing to roll out of a moving car rather than talk to his wife about their marital problems.

Those opening scenes are so cleverly done. I loved the movie (though I have no idea why there's an extra comma in the title).

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