In 2000, Miramax released writer/director Don Roos’ film Bounce (2000). The film starred Ben Affleck and Gwenyth Paltrow. Don Roos also published a version of the script to go along with the final film.
In many discussions of film, scripts often get brought up as the blueprint for the film. However, this script changed many times and has a few noticeable deviations. This article will examine the differences between the published script and the completed film. It will also dive into how the film changed over various stages of production.
Screenplay: 156 pages
Completed film: 106 minutes
After giving his ticket on a flight to another man, alcoholic ad executive Buddy Amaral (Affleck) learns that the plane crashed and killed everybody onboard. After getting sober, Amaral seeks out the man’s widow Abby (Paltrow), only to fall in love with her. As their relationship blossoms, Buddy finds himself forced to face the impending consequences of her learning about his true relationship to her husband.
The Time Period
This movie came out in 2000 at the height of Miramax. According to the commentary, Roos had a pretty good working relationship with executive producer Harvey Weinstein, but both lead actresses (Gwenyth Paltrow and Natasha Henstridge) alleged that Weinstein sexually harrassed them years later.
Like many films, this movie is made up of the most popular big names from the time. In the 5 years before this movie came out, both Affleck and Paltrow had won academy awards. Miramax had previously made the biggest hits of both their careers. The company had also financed actor Tony Goldwyn’s directorial debut A Walk on the Moon (1999).
During this time, Affleck played many businessmen or young professionals experiencing a crisis of some kind. In fact, this is the second film in less than two years that began with Affleck’s young professional character being connected to a plane crash (the first being Forces of Nature (1999)). Such storylines would seem much grimmer after 9/11 happened.
Don Roos as A Director
Don Roos had worked in television before writing Single White Female and the Oscar nominated Love Field (both 1992). He directed his debut film, The Opposite of Sex, in 1998.
Throughout the commentary, he talks a lot about being a relatively new director. As this is his second film, he compares it a lot to The Opposite of Sex. Roos says that cinematographer Robert Elswit really helped make the film work well visually while he focused more on the performances and the story.
The Difference Between Drama and Melodrama
With this article, I would like to talk about the difference between drama and melodrama. In film school, my film history professor taught melodrama in three parts:
- An Innocent Character
- Proving a Moral point
To demonstrate this, my professor used the film First Blood (1982) as an example. In that story, innocent veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) suffers at the hands of local enforcement, proving a moral point about how America treats its veterans.
While melodramatic storytelling focuses on a very clear version of justice, dramatic storytelling focuses on the nuances and the ambiguities of such stories. In the modern day, the word melodrama gets used as a pejorative to describe any over the top emotion, but it actually exists as a real genre. Audiences still see melodramas, but they tend to know them now as thrillers and horror films.
How Melodrama relates to ‘Bounce’
This film tells what could be a melodramatic story, but does it in a more nuanced way than a conventional melodrama would. The film does not present its characters as complete saints or horrible monsters. They mostly are just characters trying to deal with difficult situations.
A little while back, I thought about writing an article pairing this movie with Douglas Sirk’s melodrama Magnificent Obsession (1954), which also tells a story about a carefree bachelor falling in love with a widow. That film has carefree bachelor Rock Hudson accidentally blind the widow (Jane Wyman). Over the course of the story, Hudson must become a surgeon to fix her sight. The story focuses more on Hudson’s transformation from a cad to a good man willing to give everything away selflessly.
The characters in this movie do not have that simple of a dramatic trajectory. Roos’ vision focuses more on the complexities and the flaws of the characters rather than the large dramatic beats.
Melodrama Characters versus Drama Characters
Buddy Amaral serves as the anti-hero of the story, but the film does not have the same scorn for him that something like Magnificent Obsession has. Roos describes Buddy as an egotistical character who does something approximating the right thing, but not the right thing. Roos sees Buddy as needing to learn humility. He decides to meet Abby to “make amends with the people he has hurt.” Roos also describes Buddy’s arc as needing to learn humility so he can be with Abby at the end.
Similarly, Abby is not the pure as snow angel that many widows are in fiction. She spends a good portion of the story telling Buddy that she is divorced. Unlike the real unfortunate situation, it feels like something she can control. Throughout the story, she tells many white lies. In the commentary, Roos makes a point about not wanting to make the Lifetime channel version of this character.
The Original Screenplay
Early in the DVD commentary, Roos describes the movie as a story about faith. It opens in the clouds before heading down into the city of Chicago. This is briefly described in the script, but the film fills it out.
Roos said that he wrote it very quickly and it was the script he set out to make. Roos describes writing the screenplay in about 4 weeks with rewrites being put in along the way. The original screenplay had Buddy give the ticket to Greg (Tony Goldwyn) as sort of a “fuck you.” It focused on what would happen if somebody the lead character resented ended up dying because of him. The revisions and finished film have Buddy give Greg the ticket as an act of kindness.
After selling the original script, Roos came up with a scene that he felt was a missed opportunity. The story has Greg coming home to sell Christmas trees with his son Scott (Alex Linz). Roos felt that Scott should ask Buddy about this. Buddy lies to protect Scott’s feelings about the subject. All of this material came after Roos had sold the original screenplay.
Description vs Casting
Since this is a film, the screenplay does not necessarily capture all the visual choices that the filmmakers make. In the commentary, Don Roos talks about filming a lot of scenes to obscure the actors’ faces. Oftentimes, emotional beats will play out in wides rather than cutting to specific close ups. Roos wanted the revelation of Greg’s death to Abby to happen in a wide shot (he actually wanted it further away than it is in the film).
Similarly, the screenplay features long detailed descriptions of the characters while the film casts very specific actors in these parts. The screenplay describes Buddy as somebody who is drinking (but not “what he would call drunk”) and at the height of his success. In making the film, Roos chose Affleck, one of the hottest new stars of the time. All of Affleck’s clothes in this movie are provided by Armani.
The screenplay also has a specific challenge. Early on, the story introduces many characters who either die in a plane crash or will not be seen until the end of the movie. In the screenplay, Roos uses the reappearance of the characters to remind the reader who they are. In parenthesis, he lists their name and what page they initially appeared on. This will not appear on screen, but it does help the reader. While this seems like a minor detail, it does explain where everything is.
Gwenyth Paltrow as a domesticated character
As part of his film, Roos chose to tell a story about domestic life. With the character of Abby, he saw a very specific vision of this character and her suburban world. The screenplay describes her as a woman whose liberal beliefs conflict with her Catholic beliefs. In the commentary, Roos describes Abby as having her closest friendship defined by the fact that they live next door to each other.
Before her role in this movie, Gwenyth Paltrow played a lot of independent women in roles like Emma (1996) and Shakespeare in Love (1998). Here, she plays a wife and mother of two children. Roos had definite ideas about that tended to differ from Paltrow’s version of such a character. Thinking that she might not understand the role as well, Roos took her shopping with one of the children from the movie. However, Paltrow easily took to the task.
Similarly, Roos had a specific vision of what a housewife should look like. In the commentary, he says that he would have put Paltrow in the most stereotypical 60s housewife fashion if he could. Paltrow would often push back and they would come to a compromise for the wardrobe.
In the editing room, Roos and the other filmmakers. Over the course of the editing process reshaped many parts of the film. Roos found that the audience’s reactions were a little different than he expected. He ultimately changed the film to accommodate their reactions.
What was taken out
Roos and the filmmakers took out many scenes over the course of editing because they did not work for the audience. Many of these choices had to do with additional story beats provided. For example, they took out a scene with Abby’s husband Greg because they felt it was too affecting. It made the audience less interested in her getting together with Buddy.
The filmmakers tightened up the first act of the film because they felt the audience wanted to get to the story quickly. In the screenplay, Buddy drinks a lot more and sleeps with more women before getting sober. This sequence slowed down the story before Buddy met Abby and started the romance that would define the movie. Realizing that the audience did not want to see this, the filmmakers decided to find a shortcut to condense this part of the story. Editor David Condron simplified this sequence by juxtaposing Buddy’s ad campaign with his drinking and cutting most everything else.
Another sequence had Buddy’s lawyer (David Paymer) taking on Abby’s case. When Abby learned about Buddy’s secret, she told the lawyer and he became more of an antagonist. It proved too complicated, so it ultimately got caught. Paymer does appear in the climax, questioning Buddy.
In another sequence, Abby learns about Buddy concealing a piece of information from her from a video tape given to her by Buddy’s airport lover (Natasha Henstridge). In it, Buddy interacts with Abby’s husband Greg. The filmmakers shot a scene where Abby watched the tape and reacted to it, but found that it was too hard on the audience. Instead, they chose a scene where Buddy discovers the tape himself. In his mostly positive review, film critic Roger Ebert describes this as a “missed opportunity.”
In the DVD commentary, Don Roos says that he probably shot more film for Bounce than Paul Thomas Anderson did for Magnolia (1999), a 3 hour long film. This included a few scenes of additional photography that had to be shot or reshot. This section will primarily focus on the biggest parts of additional photography.
The production returned to Buddy’s apartment several times. The filmmakers reshot scenes before and after the characters make love. In the scene before, they had a very specific design for the scene that just fundamentally did not work. Since they shot it based on one specific version, there was no way to cut around it. Similarly, the scene after they make love was combined with another scene where Abby asks Buddy to come along with her on a trip. This saved time and condensed the story.
Similarly, Harvey Weinstein suggested an additional scene where Abby talks to her best friend (Caroline Aaron) about her feelings for Buddy after learning what he did. Feeling that it would be a good edition, Roos added the scene in.
Major Story Changes
While many of the story beats stayed pretty similar, the climax and ending of the story substantially changed.
The original climax of Bounce is different from the finished film. In both versions, Buddy must attend a hearing because he gave his boarding pass to a man and talked a flight attendant (Jennifer Grey) into changing this on the computer. This is a violation of airline policy.
The original screenplay focused more on Buddy being on the stand and what happened to him there. The original story had a more resentful Buddy talking about feeling judged. There are a lot of flashbacks of Buddy’s story. In the commentary, Roos describes this original version as hard to lose because of how good the acting is.
In the new climax, Buddy speaks about Greg in a more earnest way. The film cuts to Abby’s reaction at home as she watches the hearing. Now the scene connects the two scenes as part of an emotional catharsis. They connect the story to a greater emotional whole in many ways.
The film went through three different endings before the filmmakers settled on the current one. The published script I have ends with Buddy going to LAX to meet Abby and reconciling with her that way. This does not occur in the final film. It was hard to end because of the different levels of emotion.
In the final film, Abby comes to Buddy’s house near the beach and reconciles with him there. Roos and the filmmakers then have them walk out of the house to the beach. They did the whole walk to the beach, but cut it because it took too long.
Over the course of its lifespan, Bounce went through many iterations before finally landing on its final version. The screenplay was different in many ways than the final product that got made. It had many more expensive scenes and complicated ideas that got streamlined over time to make it work better.