New In Town – Credibility Problem

renee_zellweger-new-in-town-etbscreenwritingIt is rare that I walk out of a movie. I know the amount of work that goes into making even a mediocre film– so out of respect for the writer I stay put until the end. Not so on Saturday. I went to see New In Town and left after about 20 minutes.

I was looking for a cheerful Romantic Comedy for Valentines Day. It was like getting a heart-shaped box of chocolates filled with empty candy papers. The movie was disappointing, condescending and completely lacking in any emotional credibility.

Big city Miami corporate executive Lucy Hill (Renee Zellweger) comes to small town New Ulm, Minnesota, to cut the workforce and retool a food processing plant. She is set up as high-powered and ambitious but she does no background research on her assignment.

She doesn’t seem to know it is snowy and cold in Minnesota in the winter. She arrives without a coat or boots or even sensible shoes to wear on the plant floor. She is clueless about all the employees and completely ignorant about the union rep, with whom she will have negotiate to terminate the jobs.

All the townsfolk are stereotypically thick, simple and buffoonish. There isn’t an ounce of affection anywhere in the film for small towns or the people in them. Despite an impassioned speech near the end of the movie, it’s impossible to believe the filmmakers aren’t laughing at the local characters instead of allowing us to laugh with them.

The lesson here is make the world real. Keep your character credible or they won’t connect emotionally. Treat everyone in the film as a real live three-dimensional human being. If you want to see how it’s done, rent Local Heroes. In that film, the comedy comes from characters who seem real.

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