We’ve all seen it. A gripping story, great visuals, but the lines sound so stilted and cheesy that it immediately pulls us out of the movie that we’re watching. We cringe. Why does bad dialogue bring down good movies? Well, in another total winner from Nerdwriter, this video looks at what makes film dialogue sound authentic— and why it’s no easy feat.
There are some huge benefits to dialogue in film— you can create realistic, overlapping speech with real rhythms, something almost impossible to do in books or even in theater. Sure, some writers, like Aaron Sorkin, are the masters of writing dialogue that sounds almost aspirational or, as the video explains, what dialogue “could be”. But if you want it to mimic how we actually sound and have it ring true, rather than just making us swell with emotion as viewers, that’s a whole other feat.
And to see this done well, he points us to The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), a film directed and written by Noah Baumbach. Focusing on a family, it’s one of the most honest portrayals of how people— and family members especially— interact with each other. He manages to lay it all bare, with conversations where two characters aren’t connecting, and is a master of the implicit communication that goes on beneath seemingly chaotic exchanges. How does it work so well? Check out the video:
Baumbach manages to combine body language, non-arguments, hijacking conversations, and authentic moments of connection— no matter how few and far between— to create a truthful family dynamic. We may not like to admit how much of our real-life communications are us projecting ourselves, getting defensive, and looking for approval, but it’s often what’s happening. We are imperfect, but effective, communicators. It’s a difficult truth to capture but, as Baumbach shows, it can be done.