The movie “Chinatown” was referenced a lot in my screenwriting books so I finally decided to watch it. I was weary. I knew it was not going to be a “fun time”. I haven’t been in the mood recently for “provocative”, let’s-think-about-life movies. I’m also not a huge Jack Nicholson fan. I like him as a writer–he wrote The Monkees movie “Head”. I liked him in “Easy Rider”. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”–no. “The Shining”–don’t remember because I don’t do great with scary movies.
I really enjoyed “Chinatown”. I knew about some of the plot twists because they were what was being discussed in the screenwriting books. To see them executed so smoothly was fantastic (next step is to read the script so I know how to write as smoothly).
Jack was very fitting as the private eye (I’m sure he cares I approve). His energy and presence was perfect for that character. Very natural. That’s why they cast him.
Robert Towne is an amazing writer ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Towne ). I liked how you could feel the effect of good structure. You couldn’t see it. It wasn’t evident because it was the beams in the walls you don’t see but want to know they’re there so the third floor doesn’t become the first. You were busy watching the movie. You’re able to enjoy the architecture and decor on the third floor because of the beams in the walls.
The beginning (First Act) established everything you needed to know and didn’t feel like a dump site or lecture. You learn everything you need to know then you play the shell game as the mystery unfolds. Everything is paid off. Everything keeps moving only to have the Third Act fly like a roller coaster on its final descent and leave you wondering what happens to Jack.
At least I wondered. With the final line that captures the frustration and despair created by politics and corruption to which so many of us can relate, what does Jack’s character do after this story? Does he quit? Does he rise up and fight?
Someone said to write a movie they talk about as they leave the theatre is a good movie. To write a movie they talk about around the water cooler the following week is a great movie. “Chinatown” is a great movie and will leave an impression on you.