When do a bunch of characters solve a problem in one long conversation?
April 20, 2008 6:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for dialog-heavy scenes (in books, movies, TV shows, etc) where a group of people solve a problem or make a plan in the course of one long conversation.

The "one long conversation" criterion is what makes this hard. Most police procedurals, for instance, don't work because the problem-solving is spread out across many short conversations in the course of an episode. The planning in heist movies tends to be the same way — split up, or scattered through some sort of "preparation" montage. I want examples where you get to watch the whole problem-solving process from beginning to end, with one set of participants, no jumps forward or backward in time, and no interruptions.

Bonus points, too, if the problem involves subgoals (e.g. "To get the money we'll need to break into the building, get past the guards, and open the safe. Now let's think about how to break into the building....")

Lest this sound too chatfiltery, there is a practical problem here: I'm doing research on the linguistic structure of conversations, and I'd like some well-known examples of this kind of conversation that I can point to as examples.
posted by nebulawindphone to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
12 Angry Men
posted by hammerthyme at 6:25 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

12 Angry Men
posted by bala at 6:26 PM on April 20, 2008

Before Sunset and Before Sunrise is not about solving problems or making plans but is about a romance unfolding through conversation.

Conspiracy is a round-table discussion that gives insight into the Holocaust.
posted by drea at 6:28 PM on April 20, 2008

You might think this is lame, but for some reason, the first thing that jumped into my head is the series of scenes in Lethal Weapon where Danny Glover and Mel Gibson talk through solving the movie's MacGuffin, which is the death of the girl shown in the movie's first scene. It's just a clever bit of wordplay that's part speculation and part role-play, intercut with development of these two characters. The script is here; the sequence I'm talking about is scenes 71 to 73.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:34 PM on April 20, 2008

Waiting for Godot is the first thing that came to mind. The second was The Mousetrap, by Agatha Christie.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:35 PM on April 20, 2008

I'm not certain you will find something that meets your conditions, but the TV series Knights of Prosperity was all about some average Joes trying to complete various criminal capers. Many times the planning was laid out quite explicitly, and the drama was in the ways the plan fell apart on contact with reality.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:46 PM on April 20, 2008

Waiting for Godot is also what occurred to me. And, err, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead but nothing really gets solved as much as resolved. Ish. Sort of.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:47 PM on April 20, 2008

Mad, Mad.... Mad, Mad World.
posted by Dizzy at 6:53 PM on April 20, 2008

The Big Kahuna
posted by iamkimiam at 7:02 PM on April 20, 2008

Well... It may be an example of a bad conversation, but the first thing I thought of is the scene in Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail where they try to figure out how to tell if a woman is a witch, resulting in them testing whether she weighs the same amount as a duck.
posted by Ms. Saint at 7:03 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding Rope. Although it's a heist film, Hitchcock was pretty formally experimental here—setting the film in real-time, an insistance on long and unbroken shots, a focus on dialogue—in a way that would play into your requirements.
posted by Weebot at 7:10 PM on April 20, 2008

In Rear Window there is one scene where Jimmy Stewart explains his theory to Grace Kelly. Wherein she comes to the conclusion that a murder has indeed occurred.
In Strangers on a Train The swap murders concept is discussed in one scene, where at least one character believes they have agreed to the murders.

I'm sensing a Hitchcock thread here....
posted by Gungho at 7:26 PM on April 20, 2008

My Dinner With Andre -- almost the entire movie is one long conversation between 2 men eating dinner at a restaurant, where they philosophize about life, the universe and almost everything else. Beautifully acted.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 7:45 PM on April 20, 2008

I'm not really sure if the thieves solve Mr. Pink's problem with tipping in the first scene of Reservoir Dogs, but they're certainly trying to work out a societal problem.

In a dick-laden Tarantino way.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:49 PM on April 20, 2008

shaun of the dead?
posted by ncc1701d at 8:02 PM on April 20, 2008

Tape is one long conversation between 3 people in a single motel room.
posted by czechmate at 8:16 PM on April 20, 2008

pretty much the whole movie "The Breakfast Club," but specifically the scene where they transition from talking about what they can't do to what they can do.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:25 PM on April 20, 2008

It's been a while since I've seen it, but I think the scene in Apollo 13 where they are improvising a way to make the air filters fit might work for you.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:27 PM on April 20, 2008

Here's the start of another Apollo 13 scene that fits.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:31 PM on April 20, 2008

I found The Man from Earth very interesting both on the subject and the attempt to prove or disprove things. Plus it's essentially once long conversation too.
posted by clanger at 8:36 PM on April 20, 2008

A pair of murderers in Shakespeare's Richard III who are sent to kill the Duke of Clarence work out how and why to do it.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:50 PM on April 20, 2008

How about the "Black capsule" scene in the movie M*A*S*H?
(Not to mention the scene where they're trying to figure out how to determine if Hot Lips is a natural blonde.)

You want dialogue-heavy, you got it.
posted by Class Goat at 10:24 PM on April 20, 2008

2nding The Man from Earth. Also probably Reservoir Dogs, most of the movie takes place in a warehouse.
posted by arungoodboy at 11:49 PM on April 20, 2008

The Felowship of the Ring - The Council of Elrond
posted by 5bux at 12:05 AM on April 21, 2008

The opening scene of Pulp Fiction?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:27 AM on April 21, 2008

i'm not sure if this will be the kind of problem solving you're looking for but...

in Ken Loach's Land & Freedom there's an amazing long scene (~ 43:00-56:00) where the militia have liberated a spanish village & the peasants all gather together to discuss how to organize everything, now that it's up to them

there's multiple different viewpoints expressed, arguments made & countered, economic & philosophical systems are debated, macro & micro political issues are addressed - plus it happens in at least a couple different languages & involves folks from several national backgrounds struggling to understand each other

it would be helpful if you knew spanish, though - one of the annoying things about this scene is the amount of discussion that gets missed or ignored by the subtitles

(if you can speak spanish, the whole movie, sans subtitles, is online here)

posted by jammy at 6:11 AM on April 21, 2008

How about an almost dialogue-free scene where they do the same thing? Youtube.
posted by dobbs at 6:17 AM on April 21, 2008

You get a lot of this on the newer Star Trek series—I think Voyager in particular had frequent problem-solving dialogs. I can't point you at a particular episode, but you'd see them in the conference room or on the bridge, brainstorming a way to escape from a subspace eddy, or negotiate a trade for dilithium with some new alien. And these were usually pretty self-contained: identify the problem, discuss alternative solutions, choose a plan of action.
posted by adamrice at 6:45 AM on April 21, 2008

PLEASE watch Woody Allen's "Manhattan Murder Mystery." There is this hilarious, brilliant and genuine scene over dinner where Woody, Diane Keaton, Anjelica Houston, and Alan Alda (not exactly a bunch of light-weights) get together and discuss, well, a murder mystery and how to go about exposing the murderer.

All for actors are so flawlessly smooth and natural in their conversing, it's the most believable film conversation I've ever seen.
posted by Detuned Radio at 7:05 AM on April 21, 2008

There's a great movie called Mindwalk, which is essentially one long conversation between a politician, a physicist, and a poet. They debate the validity of systems theory and apply it to the various problems of the world -- and I know that sounds deadly dull, but it's weirdly compelling, and the scenery (Mont Saint-Michel) is stunning.

For some odd reason, this brainy cult film is repeated fairly often on cable movie channels, so you might be able to catch it there.
posted by eduke at 9:51 AM on April 21, 2008

The Manhattan Project wasn't a great movie, but the ending, where they disarm the bomb, was particularly memorable.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:17 PM on April 21, 2008

Faulner's Absolom, Absolom!

Pretty much the entire last half of the novel takes place within a conversation between two people, who are working out the "hows" and "whys" of a murder.

Fair warning, though: it's not an easy read.
posted by Edelweiss at 8:02 PM on May 13, 2008

Crap. Make that "Faulkner."
posted by Edelweiss at 8:13 PM on May 13, 2008

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