5. The Social Network (2010) – David Fincher – Writer: Aaron Sorkin
MARK: How do you distinguish yourself in a population of people who all got 1600 on their SATs?
ERICA: I didn’t know they take the SATs in China.
MARK: They don’t. I wasn’t talking about China anymore, I was talking about me.
ERICA: You got 1600?
MARK: Yes. I could sing in an a capella group, but I can’t sing.
ERICA: Does that mean you actually got nothing wrong?
MARK: I can row crew or invent a 25 dollar PC.
And this is how the film begins; with a soon to be ex-girlfriend and Mark Zuckerberg at a Harvard bar, you can sense the Sorkin-esque dialogue immediately. More importantly, the film is based off this fast-paced rhythm between intelligent human beings always trying to get ahead of one another. Out of this, Fincher crafts a story for this generation – American capitalism, social status, and more just to start, all based in the dialogue.
From a 164-page script to a 120-minute film, the conversations are rapid and you need to keep up with them. As a result, the characterizations, speech patterns, and internal thoughts are all through the words. It was a great way to start the decade, certainly holds up, and will continue to do so.
4. American Hustle (2013) – David O. Russell – Co-Writer: Eric Warren Singer
IRVING: I don’t think you should come to Carmine’s party tonight. You look beautiful, by the way.
EDITH: Don’t look at me. Don’t look at my legs, don’t look at my hair, don’t smell my hair, don’t ask how I am, don’t talk to me outside of these roles, ‘cause we’re done.
IRVING: What are you doing? Get under the umbrella. It’s just that Carmine wants Rosalyn to come.
EDITH: I don’t care. You weren’t listening. I don’t care if Rosalyn comes. Just do your job, okay? You’re nothing to me until you’re everything. I’m not Rosalyn, I’m not gonna put up with that shit.
Just one of the dozens of compliments, insults, and contradictory human behavior expressed through Russell’s words and characters. And not to even add the voiceover of many characters; it’s almost like they are battling their own thoughts when they speak. All of the characters are extremely verbose and you never know what way it is going to go.
Sure, Russell is inspired by other writers here, but he crafts his own musically-fused film with words. Whether it’s helping or hurting a person, condemning or assisting, or just speaking the truth, it’s constantly entertaining and thought-provoking. Russell does his best work here and makes this a film one to constantly revisit.
3. Manchester by the Sea (2016) – Kenneth Lonergan
RANDI: Lee…! Hi.
RANDI: Um—-Rachel, This is Lee. Lee, Rachel.
RANDI: And this is Dylan, You can’t see him too good.
LEE: Hey Dylan. Very handsome.
Known for his lyrical mundane conversations that can turn a ‘hey’ or ‘hi’ into something filled with subtext, confrontation, and awkwardness, writer and playwright Lonergan does his best work here. From tragic circumstances anchored by Casey Affleck’s performance, we see this small New England town through his eyes. From the heavy accent and working-class population, the rhythm goes out from all aspects of life.
With all the heartbreaking scenes where no dialogue explains the past, Lonergan incorporates plenty of humor into the film, particularly through Lucas Hedges’ character. It shows that no matter how things go, life goes on, and it includes a combination of tragedy and humor. It’s a slice of the American way and speech that is presented here in this marvelous film.
2. Another Year (2010) – Mike Leigh
TOM: He’s a good lad.
MARY: He could be quite good looking if he wanted to. He should lose a couple of stone, shouldn’t he?
GERRI: He was a good looking man when he was young.
MARY: Was he?
GERRI: Mm. He’s got a good heart. Life’s not always kind, is it?
MARY: No, it isn’t, Gerri.
Known for crafting his films without screenplays and catering to his chosen cast, Leigh makes a beautiful sentiment of a couple over the course of the year through seasons with family and friends. Told in the suburbs outside London, we see Tom and Gerri interact with their sons, brothers, friends, etc. in all the emotions that encompass life. You never know when you are going to laugh or to cry during this film, which makes the stakes so much more involved for the audience.
Leigh has never shied away from tough subjects, but somehow in the sweet, somber film that best resembles his realistic style, he captures the ordinary life of these people through their stark, thought-provoking dialogue that never seems over the top, but rather in the simplest possible terms.
1. Before Midnight (2013) – Richard Linklater, Co-Writers: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
JESSE: Could you hold on a second? I just have to tune up the string section…
CELINE: You know what? The only time I get to think now, is when I take a shit at the office. I’m starting to associate thoughts with the smell of shit.
JESSE: Well, that is a good line – I want to use that in a book someday.
CELINE: I’m sure you will – and that’ll be the best line in the book.
Just some of the back-and-forth banter when Jesse and Delpy are in the Greek hotel room in the third act of the film. We all know the ‘Before’ series thrives on the characters and their internal monologues, dialogues, and words to say who they really are. In the third installment, we truly see them as a couple in all the heartbreaking, hilarious, and emotional ways.
Since the film set a new standard on marriage arguments and marriage in general, the three collaborators literally left everything on the floor. From the small flirtatious moments, raising twin girls, and the overall question of whether to continue to be a couple are portrayed on screen. No lines or words are out of place or feel false due to the 18 years of buildup to this remarkable film.