I’m not a muse. I just work for them. My little joke. My wife the muse never found it funny. “Please tell me I didn’t fuckin’ inspire that,” she snarled the first time she heard me say it. Of course, she had. Now she’s my ex-wife. But still my best client.
“Christ, have you seen what these assholes are doing with the idea I so generously bestowed upon them?” She didn’t quite throw Repo Men at me — for which I was grateful, because an enraged muse can hurl something as physically nebulous but as psychically powerful as a story with the force of a tornado — but she was about to if I didn’t calm her down.
“Hey, I told you to quit with these Hollywood types when Garry Marshall took your concept for a dark drama about a hooker and turned it into Pretty Woman,” I soothed. “It’s a recipe for heartache.”
She glared at me but otherwise ignored the comment. “I give them the notion of artificial organs purchased on credit at outrageous APRs — which is fuckin’ brilliant, by the way: it’s a beautiful extrapolation of the insane for-profit health care system some of these mortals insist on — which of course logically leads to the question, ‘What happens when someone can’t make the payments?’ Which was all theirs. Fine. Great. That’s what they pay me for: to kickstart their puny mortal brains.” She was stalking around her office now, and didn’t even notice when she knocked over the towering, always-teetering pile of requests: the names “J.K. Rowling” and “Ben Stiller” flashed by in the tumble of papers. “But this is where they wanna take it from there? Shit. Really, dudes?”
“Their card wasn’t declined or anything, right?” I said.
“No, their money’s fine. But there’s still the fine print.” She arched an eyebrow at me.
Yeah, I knew all about the fine print, the tricky stuff about respecting the muse’s contribution — it was how I got mixed up in this crazy part of the biz in the first place. Frankly, I still thought that the right lawyer could get the fine print thrown out in a court of law, but the muses have a surprising amount of pull among any creative professionals. Which includes lawyers, of course.
“Just fix it, all right?”
“Ten percent of any negative difference between the expected opening-weekend gross and what it actually pulls in, yeah,” she confirmed. “I want you to do a fuckin’ creative repo on these guys. Irony! I fuckin’ love it.”
* * *
I guess it’s not hard to see why some of my fellow mortals might mistake me for a muse. I don’t have the capability to hand out ideas like candy like the muses do — once you’ve proven yourself worthy, both creatively and via your credit score, of course. But I do have the power, thanks to some recent advances in applied metaphysics and my handy-dandy BrainBender 3000(TM), to twist some notions one way or another.
I could see why my client was pissed, in the case of Repo Men. When I compared my client’s spec sheet against what her clients were doing with her product… Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. I guessed that she probably agreed to work with these guys in the first place because Spielberg hadn’t come calling in a while — this was exactly the kind of thing she’d have sold to him years ago. These guys seemed to sense that, and were running with it in a way that should have embarrassed them, but didn’t seem to. It looked like they were trying to ape Minority Report — you know, lots of faux-deep commentary on excessive corporatism and overarching government intrusion of privacy and basic human dignity — but without really getting Spielberg. And he’s not that hard to get.
As punishment for that, I removed the pretty good subplot they had about what happens when the organ repo men taser and cut open and pull out the cyber-liver of the wrong person, someone who was, in fact, up to date on their payments. It was a moderately clever bit, but since they mostly couldn’t get themselves up to even a Spielbergian level of easy-target satire, I figured they’d barely miss this. All it took was implanting the suggestion that the subplot was “too thinky,” and they made the cut themselves.
From there, I amped up their “homages” to Blade Runner and The Matrix till they were such blatant “ripoffs” that it was bound to piss off even the most reactionary of filmgoers, those who actually want to see the same damn movie over and over again. The blowback on that should be good for a couple mill over opening weekend: it all but ensured a steep Sunday dropoff as the bad WoM spread.
Beyond that, though… shit, my client’s clients had pretty much done my work for me. They already had the Jude Law repo man changing his tune — from enthusiastic company man who delights in ripping open bodies to grab at organs to uber-concerned citizen appalled by the brutality of this system once he needs an artificial organ himself — with such instantaneous ferocity that it was sure to give movie audiences whiplash. But I subtly convinced Jude Law to go extra mopey with his performance, as a way to underscore how preposterous it would be for his character to have no inkling of even the possible wrongness of what he’s doing until it directly impacted him personally. I made sure that the bit toward the end — you’ll know which one I mean when you see — between Law and fellow organ deadbeat Alice Braga dollops on some extra pornifying on top of their pain. And I was so clever about it that director Miguel Sapochnik will think he’s the one being clever about it. And I made sure that screenwriters Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner inserted just one more heavy-handed hint about what’s really going on to ensure that viewers are always one step ahead of what they think is their cleverness.
I am proud, though, of how I made sure that the dramatic and thematic preposterousness the film embraces in its final act — not to mention all the blood and the gore — has an ostensible onscreen reason for itself, one that no objection can possibly withstand, and by extension through which no excess can possibly be honestly justified. Because it will become its own best critique, too: If anything goes, then nothing has to make sense, and that is the biggest, cheesiest, cheapest cheat a movie can take. Everyone should be able to see that after my tweaks.
Oh, and Forest Whitaker, as Law’s partner in repo? He didn’t escape me. I’ll just say that if you see him showing up in idiotic romantic comedies, that’ll be down to my influence.