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The Better Part of Valour: A Movie for Tea Party Folk

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In hard times, a leader emerges.
In hard times, a leader emerges.

The following treatment, provisionally entitled “The Better Part of Valour”, was leaked to me by a source at a major Hollywood studio. In the wake of recent controversy over “The Kennedys” it is an interesting political document. Is Hollywood responding to a change in the American psyche, or pandering to a fake demographic which lives only in the headlines in the New York Times? Will movies for Tea Party folk become the norm? The document I received was stained with pork rind grease in the lower right hand corner, leading me to believe that someone authentically conservative must be involved with the project.

“THE BETTER PART OF VALOUR”

MADISON BROOKS is a junior White House pool reporter with the Washington Post. Her zeal for the scoop often sees her at odds with her liberal “lamestream media” bosses. As we meet her she is having her usual Tuesday lunch with her best friend RONRON BATISTA, a gay, Latino republican who writes for the Post Sunday magazine. He is working on a story about a new social trend: young people in “red” parts of the country are turning into liberals, at least culturally. They listen to left-wing music, watch left-wing movies, wear left-wing clothes, etc. He is sardonic, even more conservative than Madison.

Late, with an air kiss, Madison leaves Ronron for the White House. As usual, Ronron picks up the tab, with a roll of the eyes. At a presidential press conference announcing some wasteful Democrat Party social program, her favorite source, the White House chef SAMMY FIVEASH, catches her eye. In exchange for a bag of authentic “x-tra salty” Arkansas pork rinds, Sammy gives her a scoop: it turns out that the french president, who was to have left the previous day, actually spent the night in the presidential apartment. According to Sammy, the two presidents talked all night and no one was allowed into the room. The French president left at dawn in an unmarked car. “So what’s the tip, Sammy?” asks Madison (Maddy to her friends), “The tip is this here card,” replies Sammy as he produces a half burned business card written in French, “I found this in the fireplace.”

That night, Madison can’t sleep. She decides to fly to Paris. As she packs her bag, her earnest liberal boyfriend, GREG, tries to persuade her to “think of her career.” In Paris, she spends a frustrating day trying to track down the origin of the card, which seems to have an address on it. Madison arrives at the address (after some anti-bicycle themed comedic hijinks with a Velib), which is a monumental building near the Place de la Concorde. An event appears to be taking place inside. Madison flashes her WaPo ID and enters a grand hall, where a JEAN-LUC MÉCHANT, an arrogant scientist in a well-cut suit and lab coat, is giving a speech in French. A PowerPoint full of chemical formulae is projected on a giant screen behind him. Madison can understand none of it; it’s all in French.

Frustrated, she retreats to a local café. A SHADOWY MAN in a suit follows her in. After eating a snail sandwich by mistake, Madison calls out angrily, “does anyone here speak English?” The French are portrayed as greasy, rude and untrustworthy. Madison retreats to the familiar comforts of the nearest Starbucks, full of Americans. The man who was following her bumps into her as she sips her skinny caramel macchiato.

Back in Washington, Madison unpacks her bags. Her weenie boyfriend is nowhere to be seen. The next day, she is not allowed into the White House press office. Back at the Post office, she finds a popular liberal BLOGGER has been hired in her place. She is escorted out the door.

Madsion calls Ronron. She cries on his shoulder. As they talk, it is clear Ronron has changed. He believes in global warming and they get into a big fight. In the taxi home, she finds something in her pocket. Someone in Paris slipped a USB stick into the pocket of her Neiman Marcus overcoat.

She goes back to her apartment and loads the USB on her Dell laptop (no Apple product placement, interesting – ed). It is a complicated PowerPoint with lots of chemical formulas. At the end is the logo of “FranceChem” and the US EPA! Madison knows she is onto something.

Suddenly the phone rings. Madison listens and, suddenly upset, runs out the door.

Greyhound bus montage: Madison looks at her laptop. The bus rolls southwards through magic hour middle America. Salt of the earthers around her eat pork rinds and other meaty snacks.

She arrives at the Arkansas hog farm where she grew up. Her grandfather, ELI BROOKS, is dying. Madison’s hippie parents haven’t even bothered to show up. In a last gesture, alone with her, he wills her the family hog farm. At the funeral (a big scene full of coded religious right subtext), the high school PRINCIPAL asks her to speak at their graduation.

Madison’s graduation speech (a big set piece) is a stirring call:

Everywhere we go in America, we walk in the footsteps of others. We feel the call of heaven so that we may heed the call of service. We do not let others tell us what freedom is. We make our trail on solid ground: the free market, democracy, family and faith. You stand not just at the crossroads of your own lives, but at a profound crossroads for America. Shall we have sunset or sunrise? All that we hold dear stands threatened by those who would force us to make our trail not on solid ground but on a swamp of relativism, liberal guilt and green socialist fanaticism.

Strangely, the STUDENTS are not tuned in. After she makes a witty joke about “organic granola global warming nazis not willing to give up their imported cheese,” the students become restive. They drown her out with shouts of “what do we want? Wind farms! When do we want ’em, etc.” It is not the Arkansas she remembers.

Afterwards, she runs into her favorite chemistry teacher, the ruggedly handsome DON THOMPSON, who could have been a great industrial chemist for an iconic American corporation, but chose to teach high school students instead. “What’s gotten into them?” asks Madison. “I wish I could say it happened gradual, Maddy, but really it’s been this past year. Real bad. The kids have changed. Maybe it’s the times…”

They have dinner in the best restaurant in the local strip mall. The incipient romance is interrupted by an angry altercation at the next table. A drunk man with a heavy French accent accosts the waiter, “do you call zat mayonnaise?” Madison recognises him as Jean-Luc Méchant, the evil French scientist she saw in Paris.

Madison drags Don out the door. They rush back to the chem lab at the high school. She shows him the PowerPoint. Don explains that the chemical equations in it are very dangerous. Where did she get it? They brainstorm through the night, writing on blackboards, etc.

Don drives her home the next morning. At the hog farm, a white van is parked next to the pig pen. MEN in white Tyvek suits appear to be injecting something into Madison’s pigs. She and Don chase the escaping van across the wastelands of east Arkansas, but the van gets away. It disappears into a locked EPA compound designed by a decadent European architect. Back at her farm, amidst the mud and pig crap, Madison finds a syringe. It is labeled “FranceChem.”

She and Don test the pigs (some comic hijinks in the slippery mud). The chemicals are present in the meat. That night all the local HOG FARMERS (salt of the earth times infinity, overalls etc.) get together. All have had their meat tainted by the mysterious chemical. Suddenly the hall catches fire, they barely escape to find that angry liberal vegetarian teenagers have set the place on fire. Madison is injured saving folks.

In the hospital, Madison asks Don — “I need you to do something for me and you can’t say no.” A tear runs down Don’s craggy cheek as she tells him her plan.

Don works though the night in the high school chem lab. In the morning he meets Madison and hands her a special “cell phone.” They kiss for the last time.

That night Madison seduces Jean-Luc Méchant in the hard luck bar at the strip mall. He drives her to the EPA compound and shows it off to her. He brags zat he is ze boss.

Action sequence: after waking up in the compound the next morning Madison tries to shut down production but it all goes against her. There are too many Frenchmen and too many liberals. Shooting. Chasing. She knees Jean-Luc in the groin, but there is no way out for Madison. Barber’s Adagio plays as, in slowmo, she reaches into her handbag, takes out the “cell phone,” prays and punches in Don’s number.

Long shot: the EPA compound explodes.

Denouement: back in D.C. Don and the Republican SENATE MAJORITY LEADER appear together at a press conference. The president is being impeached, an investigation has been launched. Justice is being served. The TV news broadcast segues to a conservative radio show playing in Don’s car as he drives into the high school parking lot, some months later.

Don parks at the school on a normal Monday. The kids, Wal-Mart tidy, are back to their good old-fashioned American ways, tossing footballs, bullying the weak, etc. They greet Don happily. The camera CRANES back to reveal the new sign in front of the school, which has been renamed “Maddy Brooks High.”

FADE TO BLACK

An acoustic version of Chicane’s ballad “Lost the Battle” plays over the closing credits:

Did she fight the battle

Just so you could lose her war?

Did she not live for us

Without hesitation,

Without contemplation,

Of the day she’d go away?

Singin’ Happy April Fools Day…

Alan Miller

About Alan Miller

Alan Miller is a graduate of the Sydney University Faculty of Architecture and holds a BFA in film from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. A fanatical cyclist, he is a former Sydney Singlespeed Champion. Alan Miller reports on cycling, film, architecture, politics, and other sports in his letters from Sydney. He won the 2011 Architects’ Journal Writing Prize.

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