Screenplay Structure of The Wrestler
January 30, 2009 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Is Robert Siegel's screenplay for The Wrestler an example of a two-act structure?

If not, how would you characterize the structure of the screenwriting, and where are the act breaks? The one I recognize pivots around the physical crisis of Rourke's character.
posted by Jeff Howard to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would argue Act I ends with Randy having the heart attack. After that he becomes serious about trying to have a real life-- he gets a real job and sincerely tries to fix things with his daughter.

And I'd argue Act II ends with him calling Nick to get back into wrestling. At that point he's completely messed up with daughter by missing dinner and flipped out at the deli. He's at the lowest point and has given up on a regular life. He knows wrestling again will probably kill him but decides to do it anyway.
posted by sharkfu at 9:13 PM on January 30, 2009

(In the draft I have [10/14/07] Act I would end on 33-ish and Act II would end / Act III would start on 100-ish.)
posted by sharkfu at 9:16 PM on January 30, 2009

Yeah, sharkfu has it. Classic three-act.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:10 PM on January 30, 2009

So Act III consists of the scene with Randy in his driveway with Cassidy, and then the ending match. Fair enough, though it seems brief. The film's ending reminded me a bit of Mean Streets, the only two act film I'm familiar with; thus the question.

If anyone can recommend any recent films that are two act, I'd be interested in checking them out.
posted by Jeff Howard at 11:01 PM on January 30, 2009

From the draft I have (which I think matches the movie pretty well) I'd say the important beats of Act III are:

-Randy calls Nick to say he's back in for the match

-Randy getting ready, Cassidy comes to his driveway to apologize. He tells her about the match.

-Cassidy at home before she goes to work. She sees her son playing with the Randy "The Ram" action figure, doing a dive off the couch. She looks worried.

-Cassidy at work. She walks off stage mid-dance and leaves work, quitting.

-Randy calls his daughter's answering machine from a pay phone. Says he'll never call her again; tells her he loves her.

-Randy before the match: tells The Ayatollah to go full force in the match.

-Cassidy sees Randy before the match. She says he could hurt himself. He says outside the ring is where he gets hurt. Inside the ring is the real world.

-In the ring: Randy thanks the crowd, almost saying goodbye to them.

-They wrestle.

-Cassidy can't take it and leaves.

-Randy climbs the ropes. He looks up and Cassidy is gone.

-He leaps.
posted by sharkfu at 5:46 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks sharkfu. Some of those beats got out of order in my recollection (I didn't have the screenplay handy).
posted by Jeff Howard at 7:55 AM on January 31, 2009

Tarantino's Death Proof is essentially a two-act screenplay narrative, tho each of those acts can themselves be broken into two acts - the first act 'turns' when the girl responds to Stuntman Mike's advances and he subsequently reveals his true nature, there follows a clean narrative break, then the second act 'turns' when the 'movie girls' decide to turn the tables and reveal their true nature. Or you could see it as a four-act script with a short interlude scene (at the hospital). It's very enjoyable working out acts of movies without the script. And Jeff Howard - I agree that act III of the wrestler seems brief, but it's not ultimately about time (duration), but rather event (I know many producers would vehemently disagree with that, but so there)- Shakespeare shows this with Macbeth - almost the entire play is a glorious, agonizing second act. Act 1 ends with meeting the witches (a few minutes in) and Act 3 starts about the same amount before the end, depending on how much a director drags out the duels, but there's not much dialogue. It's great dialogue(!) but very efficient...
posted by Hugobaron at 8:07 AM on February 1, 2009

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