I can’t get over how good this adaptation is, or the fact that it was only John Hodge’s second screenplay. Of course I loved the dialogue – hyper-articulate scag addicts, 15 year old girls’ devastating put downs as they climb into taxis, casual pinioning of every aspect of British life in the 80’s from estate agents to tin openers. But those voices belong to Irvine Welsh rather than John Hodge. What I really loved about the script was how he took what Welsh himself calls an ‘episodic’ story, one that he couldn’t imagine being made into a film, and found the heart of it. The heart is Renton, or rather he is the hero who will become the heart when and if he can get off scag and ‘become a better person’. When he leaves the stolen money in the locker for Spud, who is perhaps the novel’s real heart (“What will you do with the money Spud?” “I don’t know. Maybe buy something for me Ma. Take a lassie out and treat her right.”) we know that Renton is going to be ok.
Renton is also a brilliant illustration of what Charles Harris calls a character who “grasps their own story and makes it theirs”. We might imagine a heroin-addicted character to be inert and passive, but Renton is constantly driving the narrative of his own life forward. Whether it be taking an inventory of the requirements of his self-enforced cold-turkey, or making “a healthy, informed, democratic decision to get back on drugs as soon as possible,” it is Mark Renton’s relentless momentum that turns what could have been miserable social-realism into a smart, sarcastic, sometimes dark and sometimes hilarious re-imagining of the junkie experience.
I read An Education in one sitting and it completely opened my eyes to what script can be. The way the action is described is succinct, witty, unexpected and hilarious, and reflects both the dry humour of the film and the personality of the author. Is this just Nick Hornby scripts? I’m sure I’ll find out as I read more, but anyway, I loved it. Admittedly I’d already seen the film, but I think I’d have been able to see it almost as vividly even if I hadn’t.
Jack stares at the flowers in disbelief. The bunch of flowers has created in Jack the kind of panic and fear more typically associated with a biochemical attack.
The dialogue is note- perfect, but it’s what was between the lines that convinced me that certain aspects of screenwriting aren’t as far from novel writing as I’d previously thought.