Deconstructing Dialogue: The Town (part 2): exposition.

Read the scene here.

Watch it here.

The Town boasts an incredibly in-depth story world with complex back-stories and subplots. As Doug, the protagonist, says, “There’s a lot going on here.”

As this scene reveals information regarding three separate subplots I’m going to split it into three parts.

First, the back-story & subplot regarding the character The Florist which happens in the first few lines of the scene.

So, let’s study the dialogue from two perspectives:

First, what information is revealed?

Secondly, what information is concealed?

Let’s start at the beginning of the scene.

Doug approaches Jem not knowing what this meeting is about. He thinks it’s about the apartment.

However, Jem tells him he’s bought some information from The Florist about a potential robbery and now he has to do the heist and pay up.

But Doug tells Jem he’s not interested.

Let’s read the dialogue:

DOUG
Something wrong with the apartment?
JEM
No. The Florist.
DOUG
The Florist what?
JEM
Came through.
DOUG
Oh, Jesus Christ.
JEM
It’s large, Dougie. It’s large.
DOUG
We’re smoked. Punt it.
JEM
Who else is gonna buy it?
DOUG
You should have thought about that
before you fucking kept breaking
the guy out for forty dimes after
every job.
JEM
There’s an expectation rate.
DOUG
I’ll correct his expectation.
JEM
Oh, you will?
DOUG

Yeh.

Let’s look at the lines more closely.

From this we can see that Jem is paying The Florist after every job, even though The Florist doesn’t do any of the ‘heavy lifting.’

The heists are done by Doug, Jem and the other two men in the gang.

The Florist, Doug infers, gets a cut of every job they do.

But that’s just the way it is to Jem. But not to Doug. Doug is changing things.

In fact, Doug’s line:

I’ll correct his expectation.

is actually foreshadowing.

But look at Jem’s line:

You will?

When we watch the scene in action, Renner delivers this line with sarcasm.

Jem doesn’t believe Doug has the power, will, or ability to ‘correct his expectation.’

From these two words, from the way the line is delivered, we might think that Jem fears The Florist.

We learn later that Jem would rather die than go back to prison, when he says, in one of the best lines of the movie:

I can’t do any more time, Dougie. So if we get jammed up, we’re holding court on the streets.

(Watch this scene here).

In a previous post we noticed how Jem is actually scared of expressing himself emotionally. We learned how Jem and Doug love each other ‘like brothers’ and actually Jem is terrified of losing ‘Dougie.’ Jem’s a tough cookie with a soft centre; capable of extreme violence and incapable of expressing brotherly love – except perhaps through a play-fight – yet Doug reads between his lines.

Jeremy Renner manages to play this tough guy with immense vulnerability. It’s easy to see why he was nominated for an Academy Award for this role and why he’s become such an in-demand film actor.

OK, so back to our scene.

We’ve learned what the writers have revealed regarding The Florist.

Now, what is being concealed?

Firstly, there is a deep back-story regarding Doug and The Florist, concerning both Doug’s father and his mother.

Although we never meet her, Doug’s absent mother is a vital character in this story.

We learn from Doug’s dad that his mother was ‘no different’ than the other single parent 20 year olds he sees on the streets.

Doug’s father worked for The Florist, and, we learn, was a victim of his brutal violence.

So, these few lines of dialogue are hiding deep layers of back stories and subplots – yet the writers’ touch on them is as light as a feather.

How heavy is your dialogue?

David Mamet says people speak to conceal, not reveal.

How much are your characters revealing and concealing?

What do you think?

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