Mormon Movie alla Woody Allen
Spending the summer in the LA 1st Ward afforded me the opportunity of meeting a lot of cinematic Saints (I hung out with the Napolean Dynamite lead actor, who's actually a pretty attractive guy when you get rid of the wig and gaping-mouth-expression). I also made friends with an up-in-coming producer who's fairly well-connected in the LDS film world and for whom I have agreed to write the script for a Mormon dramedy that will begin shooting in June 2005.
As has already been discussed in previous blogs, LDS film is a complicated subject. Beyond dilemmas of normative aesthetic philosophy there lies the simple issue that we as a people desperately need a cultural cache that we can be proud of. The last thing I want to do is to write another "RM" or "Single's Ward." Instead of cheap slapstick, I'd like to do something more along the lines of a Woody Allen film, something that is at once funny, entertaining, and culturally probing. I'd like to give you the story's basic hook, and then invite your suggestions / caveats.
Jarom Merrill, a mid-20's Saint who has just moved into Chicago brings his two new roommates, one Jewish, the other Catholic, to a friend's LDS wedding reception. While there, Jarom runs into his old Stake President, now a wealthy CEO, to whom he introduces his roommates, who are both under-employed with large educational-loan debts. Distracted by meeting an old mission companion, Jarom leaves his roommates to chat with the Stake President, who thinks they're both LDS. The Stake President probes them about Jarom's dating habits, then relates Jarom's mother's worry that Jarom will never marry. The roomates say anyone who put any effort into it could set Jarom up and get him married in 6 months. The Stake President puts them to a wager that if they can get Jarom married in the next 6 months, he will give them both great jobs at his company which will easily allow them to pay off their debts; if they can't, they have to come and work minimum wage in the mail room for a year. They agree.
The problem? The roommates know next to nothing about Mormon culture. They try various gimics to get him engaged. First, they invite over all of the women they know who are desperate to get married and throw a party for Jarom. This doesn't work. After a few similar attempts, they decide he must be gay. After this is straightened out, they decide that maybe he's only interested in LDS girls. They next infiltrate a single's ward. First, they show up and, seeing a high concentration of women, unscruopulosly sit in on a Relief Society meeting. Second, deciding that they need to plant subconscious visual reminders of Mormon weddings around the apartment and, hearing that all weddings happen at the temple, they try to go inside the Chicago temple. The old man at the desk stares at them expectantly. They stare back. He asks for their recommend. They say, "Recommend? Oh, sure, we can recommend you something. Great restaurant down the street. Called Elise's. Wonderful Trout..." The old man stares at them, bewhildered, then adds, "From the Bishop..." The Catholic roommate says, "Oh, right... from the Bishop... I can take care of that." They go to a Catholic bishop.
The whole while, Jarom is actually falling in love with his Jewish Roommate's sister-- the one woman in the world his rommate doesn't want him to marry! Jarom, the sister, and the roommate's worlds are all turned up-side down as cultures clash and social norms are put to the test under the strain of true love.
You can see the basic plot arc of the movie. What I'm looking for in the way of suggestions are two things. 1.) Suggestions on more funny "Fish-out-of-water" scenarios like the Relief Society or Temple scenes. The comedy should revolve around possible mis-understandings in crossover of religious / cultural institutions from Catholicism or Judaism to Mormonism. 2.) I need your suggestions on the ending. Would it be too alienating to audiences for both Jarom and the Jewish girl to marry outside their respective faiths? Would Jews find it insulting if the Jewish roommate himself decides to convert after spending all this time around Mormonism?
I'm excited about this movie because it's a blend of Mormon and non-Mormon characters. It's also told from the perspective of "Outsiders" looking in, which should make the film more accessible to non-Mormon audiences.