There was an interesting change of pace with the fourth instalment of the Moving On series. Previously, plots have evolved quickly, arguably too quickly at times. But Dress to Impress by Arthur Ellison was much more of a slow burner. And a pretty effective one too. It established almost immediately that today’s issue was going to be cross dressing – mixing it up a bit with the fact that Daniel, the man in question, was a teenager. So you were waiting right from the word go for his parents to discover this, and normally you’d expect it to occur early as the inciting incident. But the writer does something clever in holding it back and holding it back, all the time cranking up the tension for the explosive reveal that you know has to come at some point.
So in actual fact the story was more an exploration of the state of the marriage of his parents, Laura and Jake. When Jake discovers sexy underwear et al, he assumes they are his wife’s birthday present to him. So when she doesn’t deliver, as it were, he is not a happy bunny. Having already seeded the idea that another man, Les, is after his wife, it was pretty clear where this was going. I don’t mean that in a bad way. There is nothing wrong with good set ups and pay offs, as long as they are used correctly. Here, everything was done to increase the tension and drama.
So when Daniel’s revelation came, it was to stop his parents tearing lumps out of each other. What worked really well is that Daniel didn’t just decide he’d had enough of living a lie and blurt it out. How many times does that happen in real life? More likely, we hold onto our secrets until we have absolutely no choice but to reveal them. This story reached a point where Daniel’s motivation was born out of having absolutely no alternative. Forcing your characters to (plausibly) do the thing they least want to do is always a good start when looking for a dramatic story.
But for some reason the Moving On series does seem to have a bit of trouble closing their stories out. This time we are led to believe that Daniel moves out (but he’s a teenager – where does he go and with what money??) Only for the next scene to have him return home for a visit during for his mother’s birthday lunch, during which there’s an indication that his father has come to terms with his wardrobe choices. Surely this scene would have sufficed and the whole moving out thing seemed unnecessary and made little logical sense. But that’s a really small gripe of what was a very good script, that produced three strong performances from its leads. I don’t know Arthur Ellison but he clearly likes exploring marriage as a theme. And having written two of my favourite The Street episodes, (the one where David Thewlis steals his dead twin’s identity, and the one where the sisters bury the abusive husband under their mother’s coffin,) he is clearly a talent to watch.
WORDS TO LIVE BY [#81]
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