Movie characters talking at the same time?
February 23, 2005 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Moviefilter: I'm looking for movies with conversations where people talk at the same time, in a realistic and nonconfrontational way.

I always hate it when movie characters magically stop talking at the right moment for someone else to jump in and complete their sentences. I'm asking for examples where people talk on top of one another, not because they're arguing but just because there's some free-for-all going on. Of course this is part of the New York Jew conversational package (as discussed in Deborah Tannen's "You Just Don't Understand") and as such shows up very nicely in Woody Allen movies. Another example is in Wes Anderson's "Bottle Rocket", where a conversation going on in a car front seat goes unpaused during a plaintive "That was a stop sign" from the back seat.

To emphasize: I am not asking for examples of movies where people attempt to interrupt one another argumentatively, nor for ones where they speak in unison, like "They're digging in the wrong place!".
posted by Aknaton to Media & Arts (30 answers total)
 
Robert Altman? I can barely follow his movies, in part because of his 'natural' sound mix but also because of what you just described.
posted by fixedgear at 1:49 PM on February 23, 2005


Mamet does this delberately, as he does all his hyperreal dialogue. I'm sure there's at least one screenwriter/director who feels as you (and I) do, I just can't recall who it is at the moment. Maybe it is Altman. But Altman uses so much improvisation that it's inevitable that people will talk over each other as they do in real life.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:52 PM on February 23, 2005


Cassavettes, particularly Faces and Shadows.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:53 PM on February 23, 2005


Desk Set with Hepburn and Tracy. Good stuff.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:54 PM on February 23, 2005


You gotta see one of my favorite movies, the original "The Thing", staring Gunsmoke's James Arness as the monster.

The dialog is VERY natural, the army guys talking over each other in multiple conversation threads as they work together to destroy the alien. Great stuff!
posted by Emera Gratia at 1:59 PM on February 23, 2005


Before Sunset, which unfolds in real time, has dialog that impressed me as being both natural and unrealistic. Nobody comes up with such perfect things to say on a date so consistently.
posted by hydrophonic at 2:00 PM on February 23, 2005


Also, This is Spinal Tap.

Maybe other fake documentaries?
posted by hydrophonic at 2:08 PM on February 23, 2005


Richard Linklater's Waking Life. The conversations are dense and dreamlike but have a natural rhythm, with people talking over one another, natural pauses, etc.

Oh, and any of the Christopher Guest improvisational spoofs - Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind.
posted by LeeJay at 2:11 PM on February 23, 2005


There's a scene around a dinner table in While You Were Sleeping where a large family is having about five different conversations simultaneously. A similar scene appears in The Aviator, with Katharine Hepburn's family.
posted by SashaPT at 2:13 PM on February 23, 2005


His Girl Friday is a great one.

(Check out the new Google Movie feature.)
posted by smackfu at 2:19 PM on February 23, 2005


Second His Girl Friday -- saw it last week and was astounded at all the crosstalk. And even more astounded that Howard Hawks was good enough that we can understand it.

I also immediately thought of basically every Woody Allen movie.
posted by Miko at 2:33 PM on February 23, 2005


Anything by Mamet, but especially Glengarry Glen Ross.
Coffee is for closers.
posted by OneOliveShort at 2:35 PM on February 23, 2005


Broadcast News?
posted by onlyconnect at 2:41 PM on February 23, 2005


I don't know this for a fact, but I imagine that My Dinner with Andre has some of what you're looking for.
posted by googly at 2:46 PM on February 23, 2005


See Robert Altman as above. Especially Nashville , Tanner 88, The Player. Many of his movies will fit the bill.

In many ways, Altman was the pioneer of this with the use of multitrack recorders on the movie set.
posted by jeremias at 2:50 PM on February 23, 2005


Falling in Love, a little known 1984 DeNiro/Streep film. Ebert described the dialogue as "The dialogue is unremittingly, perhaps deliberately, banal." You know, like how real people talk. It's not a good movie, but probably what you're looking for.
posted by Arch Stanton at 3:12 PM on February 23, 2005


I'll add another vote for His Girl Friday. In fact, the "overlapping dialog" in that movie was so unusual at the time that the director, Howard Hawks, became known for using it as one of his hallmarks.
posted by curtm at 3:14 PM on February 23, 2005


Second Mamet. A lot of his stuff is quite confrontational - esp in GGR and House of Games. However, one of his signatures - even in his less charged work - is overlapping, interrupting dialogue.
posted by luriete at 3:19 PM on February 23, 2005


The first time I saw this "phenomenon" happen, I realized not only how important it is to the movie's realizm but also how rare it is...probably because most people are incapable of paying attention to that detail.

Anywho...M*A*S*H is my favorite example.
posted by SparkyPine at 3:50 PM on February 23, 2005


Altered States has quite a bit of this, look for the party scene.
posted by beowulf573 at 3:54 PM on February 23, 2005


The Jack Lemon version of Long Days Journey into Night is the most extreme example of this I've ever seen. I don't know if it's ever been put on to DVD, but I have an old VHS of it.

See the comment at the bottom of the page I linked to.
posted by grumblebee at 5:12 PM on February 23, 2005


The first two that occurred to me are Altman and Cassavetes and, what do you know, they are the first two responses.
posted by wsg at 6:04 PM on February 23, 2005


Second on Desk Set.

Altered States was my first thought because the dialogue was not written as overlapping. Ken Russell asked William Hurt and Charles Haid to overlap their dialogue in one scene. (The bathroom scene I believe.) They liked the result and continued it throughout the film.

Of course, Paddy Chayefsky did disown the final film. I doubt the overlapping dialogue was the reason though.
posted by ?! at 6:37 PM on February 23, 2005


The Goonies often lets all of the kids jabber excitedly at each other on top of each others' words. It's quite realistic. It's also one of the reasons I find the movie painful to watch.
posted by grimmelm at 7:08 PM on February 23, 2005


Ugh. Altered States is perhaps the single worst film I've seen in the past five years. How about other Chayefsky? Network? Marty? I've seen both of those recently, too, and I seem to recall that the former, at least, had similar dialogue.

I'm sure I've seen others recently, but I can't remember them. What about the works of Aaron Sorkin? His dialogue's very stylized, and I seem to recall that in some instances his dialogue overlaps, but maybe he just has the fast, repeating thing going on as an attempt to mimic (semi-)natural dialogue. (See, especially, Sports Night.)
posted by jdroth at 9:50 PM on February 23, 2005


Altman says that he has overlapping dialogue in his films because that's how it is in real life. He's right, of course.
posted by wsg at 1:34 AM on February 24, 2005


Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle. Of all the Altman movies I've seen, this one had the overlappiest dialog.
posted by adamrice at 7:54 AM on February 24, 2005


You gotta see one of my favorite movies, the original "The Thing", staring Gunsmoke's James Arness as the monster.

The dialog is VERY natural, the army guys talking over each other in multiple conversation threads as they work together to destroy the alien. Great stuff!


Interestingly enough, though he only took a producer's credit, it is conjectured that Howard Hawkes pretty much directed most of the film; the overlapping dialogue is evidence of this.

For more examples, look to the films of Preston Sturges and Orson Welles.
posted by gigawhat? at 3:56 PM on February 24, 2005


n+1 for His Girl friday.

Also on TV (or TVonDVD), the works of Aaron Sorkin are stellar examples of this. So I guess The American President and A Few Good Men would count too.
posted by softlord at 6:36 AM on February 25, 2005


I second (or third) Altman's films as perfect examples of this. Most recently, Gosford Park.
posted by muddgirl at 3:45 PM on February 26, 2005


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