Framing Fiona, M Artinian

Content: Framing Fiona By Missak Artinian
FADE IN: INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT ARA BALIAN and PHOEBE CHAN, both 16, sit next to each other on the edge of his bed, backs toward us, watching TV. ON THE TELEVISION A mysterious young woman, FIONA (22), sleeps in bed, captured in BLACK AND WHITE with a shaky handy cam. Her face is soft and tranquil, a Sleeping Beauty, unaware a young voyeur is capturing her on film. BACK TO SCENE Ara wears thick-rimmed glasses. Acne pervades his face. His eyes fixated on the television screen, the only source of light in an otherwise dark room. ARA I was so young when I found her like this...just sleeping. She looked so beautiful, I can still remember how powerless she made me feel...Like I didn't have a choice. Phoebe, Ara's Chinese girlfriend, turns to him. She wears braces. Though she's also beautiful, her eyes show signs of envy, wishing she were the subject of Ara's raw footage instead. ARA It was either: capture this one moment, this one memory, or let it go. Phoebe shifts her gaze back to the television. ON THE TELEVISION The camera SLOWLY ZOOMS forward, framing Fiona's face within the confines of the screen. ARA (O.S.) I can't let it go. I'm like this kid catching fireflies, trapping them in jars, mine to keep, forever. BACK TO SCENE
2. Phoebe places her hand on top his, searching for a connection. ARA Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember...I need to remember...Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world... PHOEBE ...You feel like you can't take it. Ara finally locks eyes with Phoebe. PHOEBE Next time you wanna impress me, steal from a movie I haven't seen. She exits the frame, leaving him isolated. ARA Shit. FADE OUT: FADE IN: EXT. WASHINGTON, D.C. - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE White credits dissolve in and out as we travel down a winding street in bustling Washington, D.C. The WASHINGTON MONUMENT stands prominently erect over lowrise rooftops, dominating the gray skyline. Our attention is fixed on the Monument, our object of desire, as we move closer and closer. But before we can admire it up close for any significant amount of time, we slowly move away from the monument, leaving it far behind, as distant and unreachable as an impossible dream. As the credit music fades, we turn away from the distant Monument and onto... EXT. Washington NatIONAL CATHEDRAL - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE ...The majestic Gothic cathedral in Northwest D.C. INT. WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE The Cathedral's CLOSED DOORS, from the inside.
3. The doors BURST OPEN, and out the blinding light steps out a bride. It's ADULT PHOEBE (22), represented in COLOR, contrasting with the rest of the BLACK AND WHITE scene. At the altar, we see the GROOM from behind, wearing a suit. Phoebe walks the aisle. When she reaches the man, whose face we don't see, she gets on her knees. Unbuckles his belt. Pulls his pants down. REVEAL from the waist down: he's wearing a CHASTITY BELT. INT. DR. TOROSSIAN'S OFFICE - DAY Ara, now 22, beard grown, sits on a chair in a small office. His looks have improved with age, but the acne scars have left a visible mark on his face and his self-esteem. ARA I've been having these really unsettling dreams lately. They seem so adolescent, so shameful, so... out of character for someone my age. It's like, everything feels backwards. When I was a kid, my idea of relationships was so much more mature. I dreamed about love and romance and finding the one, you know? But the last thing on my mind right now is settling down. He stands. Starts pacing the room in a neurotic manner. ARA I feel like the only guy in the world who didn't get invited to the orgy party. Everyone's having sex left and right, procreating and depleting finite natural resources. Ara walks out of the office and into... INT. COMEDY CLUB - NIGHT ...A small club in a natural, almost magical transition. He takes center stage, illuminated by the spotlight.
4. ARA But who am I kidding? If I were the kinda guy who got laid routinely, I wouldn't give a crap about unsustainable Population Growth, either. In stark contrast to his depressive therapy monologue, he's animated and jovial here. ARA It sucks being a virgin. Not that I'm ashamed of it. I just, I don't carry it around like it's some badge of honor. When you're twentytwo-years-old and still a virgin in the 21st century, it's kinda like being black before the eighties or gay in Russia. Ara walks off stage and back into... INT. DR. TOROSSIAN'S OFFICE - DAY ...The therapy room in another magical transition. He paces in front of the recliner, continuing his monologue. ARA On the bright side, there's always Armenia. There's bound to be someone there desperate enough to take me in exchange for a green card. Problem is, I'm not ready for that kinda commitment. That's part of the reason why I was so drawn to Phoebe. At least at first cuz she was Chinese, and, to me, that meant any romantic future between us was doomed from the beginning. Ara sits down on the recliner, sad. ARA But now that she's out of my life, you know, my writing is suffering and...I still inject myself into my own stories, desperately trying to create a version of myself that I can love. He shuts his eyes. BLACK SCREEN
5. We're in DARKNESS, until... INT. COMEDY CLUB - NIGHT ...A SPOTLIGHT FLICKS ON, illuminating Ara, sitting on a barstool. ARA But I haven't loved myself since my mom caught me jerking off to this game called Second Life. Frankly, I don't know what shocked her more: the fact that my pants were down in real life or that my avatar was fucking a virtual dragon. The SPOTLIGHT FLICKS OFF. We're in DARKNESS again, until... INT. DR. TOROSSIAN'S OFFICE - DAY ...Ara's eyes OPEN.. He's back to laying on the recliner, ending the hallucinatory cycle. ARA I can still remember what it was like before. There were no feelings of self-loathing or inadequacy. No guilt. No shame. I was just this happy kid expressing a healthy sexual curiosity, until she had to barge in and ruin everything. So now I'm a prisoner in my own bedroom, which is maddening, cuz it forces me to reflect on my life, and ask all these questions. And the more questions I ask, the more I don't understand...why am I so incapable of getting laid? INT. COLLEGE PARTY - NIGHT - FLASHBACK Ara, 19-years-old, wears an American University t-shirt and thick-rimmed glasses. His acne is more severe than the previous scene to suggest his younger age. No beard. DAVID, an attractive contrast to Ara, nods his head toward a CUTE GIRL sitting alone on a couch. ARA What if I'm not her type?
DAVID Just be confident. Girls love confidence.
Ara approaches the girl on the couch.
ARA Um, is this seat reserved?
She takes one look and turns away, unimpressed.
Ara sits next to her. Looks around, nodding his head, waiting for an opening to make his move.
ARA So you a freshman?
He avoids eye contact with her, as he always does in social situations like these.
ARA I'm a freshman.
CUTE GIRL That's great.
Ara smiles. She doesn't.
ARA My name is Ara.
She rolls her eyes and stands. Leaves.
ARA Talk to you later.
Ara and David are back to square one.
DAVID Hey. Look at her.
A LESS ATTRACTIVE GIRL stands next to the alcohol table.
DAVID She might be down.
ARA I don't know. She's not my type.
DAVID Beggars can't be choosers.
David pushes Ara toward her.
He approaches the table. Pours himself a drink.
She takes a swig from her cup.
ARA What you drinking?
ARA Cool. Me too.
She nods her head, taking another swig.
Ara glances at David in the corner, who gestures "Go on."
ARA What's the difference between sand and menstrual blood?
ARA You can't gargle sand.
Disgusted, she walks away.
Ara and David sit distantly from each other on the edge of the bed, facing the television.
The ending scene from Play it Again, Sam, starring Woody Allen. Woody's character is outside an airport with Diane Keaton, quoting Bogart, spoofing Casablanca.
ARA Did you notice how she didn't even laugh?
8. David is too disappointed to respond. ARA Girls that lack a sense of humor...they're just boner kills. DAVID This coming from boner kill personified. ARA It was just a joke! DAVID Your "jokes" aren't gonna get you laid! You keep this shit up, no one's ever gonna love you. ARA Phoebe loved me. DAVID And you still managed to fuck that up. Ara looks down, because he has a point. ARA I just gotta find someone else who's attracted to losers. Someone like... He points to the TV. ARA Diane Keaton. DAVID You're not Woody Allen, okay? You have nothing in common with him. ARA We have some things in common. DAVID Name one. ARA We're both afraid of death. DAVID He's afraid of dying. You're afraid of dying a virgin. There's a difference.
9. INT. DR. TOROSSIAN'S OFFICE - DAY Ara is back to the recliner, 22-years-old again, beard grown. He no longer wears glasses. ARA I do think David is a good person. I know he cares and he wants to help, but he's not the best person to be around if you're looking for a cheap ego boost. He looks off-screen, presumably in Dr. Torossian's direction, whom we've yet to see. ARA When we were kids, we used to argue which of us was more like Don Quixote or Sancho Panza. But we were never destined to rid the world of crime and injustice. We were too busy trying to rid the world of each other. EXT. WOODS - DAY - FLASHBACK - MOMENTS LATER A much younger Ara, about 10-years-old, dodges trees, struggling to catch up with an equally young David. ARA Dave! David doesn't slow down, eventually disappearing behind the trees. ARA Wait for me! Ara is lost in the wilderness. ARA (panicked) Where are you? Ara turns in multiple directions, BREATHING HEAVILY. ARA Don't leave me here alone. A long beat of silence. A BRIGHT LIGHT finally shines through some trees, silhouetting a SMALL BODY. DAVID This way! Look what I found!
The playground is deserted, quiet. Something's off, though. Who builds a swing set in the middle of the woods?
It hangs on the overhead pole of the swing set, undisturbed.
Ara enters the frame. Sits on one of the swings, unaware of the danger above him.
His hands CLENCH the chains.
Swings forward.
As Ara swings, FREEZE FRAME. We stay on him suspended in midair for a few seconds, until:
Ara, 22, stares into space, dazed.
DR. TOROSSIAN, a man who could really go easy on the Brylcreem, shakes Ara as tears build up in his eyes.
TOROSSIAN Hey. Look at me.
He looks intensely into Dr. Torossian's eyes.
David's mouth inches toward Ara's EAR.
DAVID He's fucking your mind.
Ara's EYES widen.
PUSHES the doctor.
Dr. Torossian stares at him, concerned.
TAMAR BALIAN and GEORGE BALIAN in the same office. Ara's no longer in the room.
Whereas George is an obese man whose hair line is receding, Tamar is skinny and appears to have visited the plastic surgeon one too many times.
11. TAMAR It's all those trash movies you let him watch. They've ruined his mind! GEORGE It's always my fault. Do you see, doctor? Do you see what I have to deal with? TOROSSIAN Let's try to focus on Ara. Tell me more about him. What is he like at home? GEORGE We barely see the boy. TAMAR He locks himself in his room all night and day. TOROSSIAN Any idea what he does in there? TAMAR He writes. Dr. Torossian looks at her, confused. GEORGE It's not that he writes. It's what he writes. TAMAR I never knew a boy could conceive such vile, disgusting words, much less my own son. George tries to console her. TAMAR I don't know what went wrong. His teachers always said he was brilliant. GEORGE They did mention that he wasn't very social. TAMAR We thought he was just shy -- you know how young boys are -- that he'd grow out of it one day.
12. GEORGE We tried everything: soccer, church, backgammon, but he'd go back to his room and waste away in front of that typewriter. TAMAR Once, we even tried to take it away as punishment, but he wouldn't stop screaming and hitting himself. TOROSSIAN Punishment for what? TAMAR For getting expelled. TOROSSIAN From college? GEORGE College?! If only we were so lucky. He never got past the tenth grade. TOROSSIAN I see...How many other therapists has Ara seen? GOERGE You're his third. TAMAR We've run out of patience, doctor. GEORGE And money! TAMAR There must be something you can do. Some medication you can prescribe, something that can make my baby normal again. TOROSSIAN It's strange. Ara was just telling me about college a few minutes ago in great detail, as if he were actually there. INT. HALLWAY - DAY The window on the closed door reads "DR. TOROSSIAN'S OFFICE." Ara sits outside the office, staring into space.
13. We slowly ZOOM INTO Ara's face. TOROSSIAN (O.S.) Ara speaks intelligently, but I think he engages in nothing more than aimless digression. As time passes, I'm afraid he'll have difficulty putting his thoughts into a cohesive structure and, more worrisomely, it will be almost impossible for Ara to distinguish what is real and what is fantasy. By the end of the doctor's diagnosis, we've zoomed far into Ara's forehead to peek inside his mind, into a fictional world that is more structured and chronological than Ara's colorful, disorderly reality. EXT. private school - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE (Note: JUMP CUTS give the shots an intentionally fragmented look, though the tone is whimsical, like a fairy tale.) Meet FICTIONAL ARA (10), real Ara's surrogate who exists in this BLACK AND white world. He's identical to the 10-year-old Ara we saw in the earlier scene swinging on the swing. He exits the front doors of the school followed by other boys in school uniform. The story is narrated by a REAL ARA, as if writing the story before our very eyes. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara was a happy child. He enjoyed a privileged life in the heart of Washington, D.C. Ara is greeted by LORENZO, the limo driver waiting for him by the curb. INT. KITCHEN - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Ara blows out 10 candles on top of his birthday cake. FICTIONAL TAMAR and GEORGE, both identical, yet distinctly more elegant versions of the real Tamar and George, smile as they watch their son open his gift.
14. REAL ARA (V.O.) His parents, both of whom were distinguished professors at American University, dreamed of nothing more than to see their only son excel as an artist and supported his creative ambitions as every good parent should. Inside the box is a DIGITAL CAMCORDER. INT. GEORGE'S OFFICE - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE George sits at an elegant office table in front of a typewriter, typing a story. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara's father, George, was both a creative writing professor and a novelist who had published several best sellers and won the Pulitzer Prize for his ground-breaking novel, The Unorthodox Threesome, which was a daring story about his experience as a young bachelor with two women in Paris, one who was both blind and deaf and the other who had no limbs. INT. UNIVERSITY CLASSROOM - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Tamar stands in front of her class. She etches "cinйma vйritй" on the chalkboard, lecturing her bored students. REAL ARA (V.O.) His mother, Tamar, taught French New Wave Cinema at the University. As a young teenager, she once corrected a light reading for JeanLuc Godard on the set of Breathless, a personal victory she shared with anyone willing to listen -- usually her students, whose options were limited. EXT. MANSION - NIGHT - BLACK AND WHITE An ostentatious mansion sits atop a large lot in what appears to be an affluent Washington, D.C. neighborhood.
15. EXT. GARDEN - NIGHT - BLACK AND WHITE Ara is surrounded by FIREFLIES. He chases them with his camcorder, capturing them on film, rather than a net like most other kids. REAL ARA (V.O.) Although George and Tamar loved their only son dearly, they were mostly absent from Ara's life. EXT. Ronald Reagan AIRPORT - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Tamar and George exit a limo, bags of luggage trailing behind them. REAL ARA (V.O.) When they weren't teaching, they were off to Paris to find inspiration in the city of light, leaving Ara behind with Lorenzo, the family's butler. INT. LIMO - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Ara looks out from the limousine's window as his parents enter the airport, without so much as waving goodbye. EXT. GARDEN - NIGHT - BLACK AND WHITE CAMERA'S POV We're chasing FIREFLIES. Ara falls to the grass, turns the camera to his face. He laughs with the care-free innocence that only a child can exude. BACK TO SCENE Lorenzo opens the back door to the mansion. Sees Ara playing in the grass with his camera. ARA (V.O.) But Ara didn't mind. To be alone meant he was free to play outside in the dark, the best time to capture fireflies with his camera. Lorenzo looks up at the sky. A storm looms. EXT. FUNERAL - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE A priest, a few others, and the family stand over an open casket.
16. REAL ARA (V.O.) One day, Lorenzo died from what the doctors called a strangulated hernia, which, to Ara, seemed like an oddly humorous name for a such a deadly malady. Ara pulls his camera out. Records Lorenzo's still face inside the open casket. ON THE CAMERA'S LCD SCREEN We zoom into Lorenzo's open mouth, into a BLACK HOLE. INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE We FADE IN on a FRAMED POSTER of a Renoir painting prominently hanging above the fireplace. It's a portrait of a young girl, a paragon of classic beauty. George and Tamar come home with FIONA (22), the sleeping beauty we remember from the very first scene on real Ara's television. REAL ARA (V.O.) To replace Lorenzo, Ara's parents brought home Fiona, a young and vibrant au pair from Paris. Fiona's face is juxtaposed with the girl in the poster. Their faces seem structurally almost identical. As she kneels to introduce herself to Ara with a smile, the Renoir poster in the background is BLURRED, as if art has come to life. INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT - BLACK AND WHITE Fiona kneels next to Ara in bed. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara grew quite fond of Fiona, whose dark eyes intently peered into his as she read him bedtime stories. She reads to him from Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince and Other Tales. FIONA (reading) "Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels; (MORE)
17. FIONA (cont'd) and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird. "You have rightly chosen," said God, "For in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me." Fiona shuts the book, smiling. FIONA Did you like the story? ARA No. FIONA Oh? ARA It's sad. FIONA Sad? Why? ARA Because the prince lost all his gems. FIONA But in God's grace, the prince found happiness. ARA How can he be happy if he's no longer beautiful? FIONA God doesn't care about golden cheeks or sapphire eyes. For Him, all that matters is right here. She puts her hand on Ara's heart. He peers down, trying to wrap his mind around this. FIONA See? Not so sad anymore. ARA Tell me one more. FIONA That's enough stories for tonight.
18. ARA But I'm not tired. Really. Please tell me about Paris. FIONA Paris is magical. Pulls the blanket over Ara's body. ARA Then why did you leave? FIONA To be with you. Ara yawns. Shuts his eyes, feigning sleep. FIONA Good night, my prince. She leaves. Ara slides out of bed. Brings his camera along. EXT. FIONA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT - BLACK AND WHITE Ara opens the door slightly, enough space for him to spy on Fiona through the crack. She changes into her nightgown. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara felt certain desires inside his heart, desires he had never felt before. FANTASY MONTAGE - INNOCENT LOVE - BLACK AND WHITE (Note: the following shots are captured as if Ara were recording Fiona with his shaky handycam.) -- EXT. OPEN FIELD - DAWN -- Fiona chases fireflies. She catches a few. Her hands glow, illuminating her smiling face as she shows us her catch. REAL ARA (V.O.) He wanted to watch her smile. -- EXT. BEACH - DAY -- Fiona splashes water at us as she dances with the waves. REAL ARA (V.O.) He wanted to watch her dance.
-- EXT. WOODS - DAY -- Fiona jumps into a great big pile of leaves, laughing.
REAL ARA (V.O.) He wanted to watch her laugh.
Young Ara stands idly by her bed, his face shrouded by a dark shadow, observing her creepily through the camera's lens.
Fiona sleeping in bed.
It's the same footage we remember from the very first scene on Real Ara's television.
REAL ARA (V.O.) But most of all, he just wanted to watch her sleep...
We hear the sound of a TYPEWRITER'S KEYS being pressed.
Real Ara, now 16 (as he was in the very first scene), glows over his typewriter. His acne is severe.
COLOR has returned to the world, to this ugly reality.
REAL ARA (V.O.) ...For when she slept, it was as if he was gazing deep into the starry sky, infinite in its scope, vast in its complexity...
Tamar KNOCKS on the door.
TAMAR (O.S.) Dinner is ready!
Ara stops typing, frustrated.
INT. dining room - NIGHT
The Balian family sit distantly around the table.
TAMAR So, did anything interesting happen at school today?
Ara plays with his food, unresponsive.
GEORGE Your mother asked a question.
Ara stares deeply into his plate.
DAVID (O.S.) (in English) Tell them about Phoebe.
Ara peers up at a 16-year-old David, occupying the chair across his. Ara gives him a "shut the hell up" look.
George CHEWS his food and Tamar SIPS out of her glass. After a long, excruciating beat of silence:
TAMAR How's the dolma?
TAMAR How about you, Ara?
No response.
George SLAMS the table with his fist.
GEORGE Your mother asked a question.
DAVID (in English) She could've gone lighter on the onions, if you ask me.
TAMAR Please, baby. Please say something. Anything.
Ara peers back down at his plate.
ARA (under his breath) Too much onions.
TAMAR What did he say?
GEORGE "Too much onions."
21. TAMAR Too much onions! Ara pushes the plate forward. Leaves the dining room, passing the EMPTY CHAIR that David occupied just seconds ago. INT. FOYER - NIGHT Ara runs up the stairs, followed by David. DAVID See what you did? ARA You said it. DAVID Yeah, but last time I checked, they can actually hear you. ARA Leave me alone. DAVID The truth hurts. Ara holds both his hands over his ears. DAVID Think you can just expose flaws and expect change? INT. BATHROOM - NIGHT Ara SLAMS the door on David's face. He slides against the door to the floor, attempting to shut David out of his mind. DAVID (O.S.) Go to Turkey and expose their government, Mr. I-wanna-change-theworld! Ara's attention shifts to the TOILET. He CRAWLS to it, frantically unzipping his pants. On the sink counter is a LOTION BOTTLE. Ara squeezes some into his hand. He lifts the toilet seat.
22. Cue Francis Lai's classic French song, Un Homme Et Une Femme, comically drowning out David's voice as Ara attends to his sexual frustrations. ARA'S FANTASY - BLACK AND WHITE Fiona sleeping in bed. Unlike Ara's footage we saw on his television from the very first scene, she OPENS HER EYES. Smiles at the camera, staring at us, until... FREEZE FRAME ON FIONA PHOEBE (O.S.) I don't buy it. INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - DAY Phoebe sits on Ara's bed, both 16, reading Ara's story. She looks up at him, sitting next to his typewriter in the corner. ARA Don't buy what? PHOEBE For starters, the whole imaginary friend thing is absurd. ARA It's not that absurd. PHOEBE And I don't get why Ara, whose poorly concealed disguise as a character-- ARA What do you mean "poorly concealed?" PHOEBE Oh, give me a break. You didn't even change your name! ARA But--
23. PHOEBE Shut up. I don't get why Ara the character, who's obviously you, would fantasize about Fiona instead of me. ARA I was just using Fiona's name as a placeholder until I could think of a better one. PHOEBE So then who's "Ara?" ARA Come on, Phoebe. Even you said about Fellini that equating his stories with autobiography was a banal reduction of the critical process. Phoebe glares at him. ARA What? PHOEBE I never said that. ARA But I thought-- PHOEBE You always do that. You always put words in my mouth! ARA But-- PHOEBE No. Save your bullshit. She storms out the room, SLAMMING the door behind her. Ara picks up the pages of his story that Phoebe left scattered on his bed. Flips through them. DAVID (O.S.) (in a condescending sneer) "Equating Fellini's films with autobiography is a banal reduction of the critical process." David emerges from the darkness of the back corner.
24. DAVID God, do you hear yourself talk? ARA But-- DAVID But nothing, man. You had her in your room. You two were alone. You could've made a move. ARA Yeah, but-- DAVID But no. What do you do? (high-pitched sneer) "Hey Phoebe, I wrote a story that reveals all my dirty little secrets..." Ara stands and covers his ears, while David follows him, raising his voice. DAVID "...I'm wondering if I could trouble you for feedback?" ARA Leave me alone! DAVID "It's a captivating story featuring a character who shares my name and likeness, and guess what happens?" INT. BATHROOM - NIGHT Ara SLAMS the door on David's face again. This apparently is a cycle. He slides against the door to the floor, attempting to shut David out of his mind. DAVID (O.S.) "...He locks himself in the bathroom and shoots his wad in a toilet bowl!" Ara's attention shifts to the TOILET. He CRAWLS to it, frantically unzipping his pants.
25. On the sink counter is a LOTION BOTTLE. Ara squeezes some into his hand. He lifts the toilet seat. Cue Francis Lai's French song, Un Homme Et Une Femme, comically drowning out David's voice. ARA'S FANTASY - BLACK AND WHITE Fiona sleeping. Her EYES OPEN, looking directly at us. She smiles, until... FREEZE FRAME ON FIONA STEINBERG (O.S.) So she's a character in your story. INT. DR. STEINBERG'S OFFICE - DAY Ara, 19-years-old, lies on a different recliner in a different office, acne a bit cleared up to suggest his older age. ARA Yeah. DR. STEINBERG boasts a beard, round glasses. STEINBERG Yet you had these recurring fantasies of her in real life. Ara looks down, ashamed. ARA Can we talk about something other than my masturbation habits? STEINBERG What would you rather talk about? ARA I'm so confused about the direction of my life, and I think it's affecting my writing. I miss being prolific. Words used to came out of me like a steady stream. But these past few years, I feel...I don't know. STEINBERG Blocked.
26. Ara locks eyes with Dr. Steinberg. He understands him. ARA I'm obsessed with sex. But it's not even the physical act of sex that I obsess about cuz it's not like I'm getting any. It's the theory of sex, the concept, you know? But I'm not sure if that's even healthy. It can't be. How can you obsess about something you've never experienced? How can you fall in love with an intangible idea? STEINBERG Sometimes talking about your story out loud can bring it back in focus. ARA There is no story. That's the problem. I just have this empty frame with no picture to put inside it. INT. CLASSROOM - DAY - FLASHBACK CLOSEUP of Phoebe (16) reading a passage from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. PHOEBE "Ah, love, let us be true/ To one another! For the world which seems/ To lie before us like a land of dreams,/ So various, so beautiful, so new,/ Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,/ Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;/ And we are here as on a darkling plain/ Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,/ Where ignorant armies clash by night." She sits next to Ara in a typical Washington, D.C. classroom. Small, underfunded, but diverse and full of color. Ara smiles, enchanted by the poem. MS. TAMMY, a large, bullish woman, sits at her desk in front of the class. MS. TAMMY Thank you, Phoebe.
With a ruler in her hand, she stands.
Approaches Ara, who's still in a world of his own.
MS. TAMMY Can anyone tell the class why Bradbury references Matthew Arnold's poem in his novel?
Some students raise their hands.
Ms. Tammy stands over Ara's desk.
SLAMS the ruler against his desk.
He snaps out of his daydream.
MS. TAMMY Mr. Balian. Maybe you can answer the question.
Ara looks at Ms. Tammy, clueless.
MS. TAMMY Tell the class what the significance of the poem is.
ARA It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous, lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror, and degradation forming a useless straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
Ms. Tammy shoots Ara a "this isn't over" look and goes back to her desk, while his classmates look at him like the weirdo that he is.
Only Phoebe smiles, intrigued.
Ara puts books into his locker. Phoebe approaches him.
28. Ara is taken aback. It's not everyday girls talk to him. At least not willingly. PHOEBE Is that how you really feel about the world, that it's barren and Godless? ARA Oh, that. That wasn't really me. I just... PHOEBE Cuz I do. She lifts her sleeve and shows some SELF-INFLICTED SCARS on her wrists. Ara tries to remain cool, even though he's visibly shaken by this strange and sudden revelation. ARA It's FOE-BEE, right? PHOEBE FEE-BEE. Ara takes her extended hand. Shakes it. ARA Nice to meet you. I-I have to go now. PHOEBE Oh. ARA Classes and stuff. PHOEBE Yeah. Me too. Ara turns. Speed walks. Around the corner, David waits. DAVID Where you going? ARA Class. DAVID What class? It's lunch time.
29. Ara looks at the school's clock. DAVID Don't run away from this. Don't you see? She's damaged goods. Ara turns. Phoebe gathers her stuff by the lockers. DAVID (O.S.) If you're looking for an easy lay, this is your chance. INT. DR. STEINBERG'S OFFICE - DAY Ara stares into space, having an introspective moment. STEINBERG Perhaps one way to think of a frame is to think of subjectivity. ARA I don't know what that means. STEINBERG You said your story is like an empty frame. What if the picture is there and you can't see it? Ara looks down. ARA It's empty. I know it is. STEINBERG Love, loss, rejection, these all have profound effects on how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. ARA How's talking about her gonna help me feel again? STEINBERG Therapy can't change an image. All it can do is help you feel differently about what's already there. ARA Maybe I don't wanna feel differently. Maybe I just wanna forget the image even exists.
30. STEINBERG Or maybe you don't want to feel anything at all. EXT. ARMENIAN Orthodox Church - DAY - FLASHBACK Both boys (16) stand behind the Church. Ara is nervous. ARA Are you sure about this? David passes a wrinkled, BROWN LUNCH BAG to Ara. DAVID Trust me. Ara digs inside. Pulls out a bottle of desensitizing cream. ARA What's the point of having sex if I can't feel anything? DAVID You wanna make a good first impression, don't you? ARA Yeah. DAVID This will help you last way longer. EXT. BALIAN HOME - DAY - FLASHBACK A poor neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C. Ara runs inside his house, the only white one on the street. A strong contrast to the large mansion we saw in the black and white fantasy world. INT. BALIAN HOME - DAY - FLASHBACK The house is pristine, furnished with Christian paraphernalia. Ara tiptoes to the stairway with his recent purchase. INT. BATHROOM - DAY - FLASHBACK Ara shuts the door behind him, locking it. Pulls down his pants.
31. Cue the French song, Un Homme et Une Femme, the same song we heard earlier in the two bathroom scenes. Squeezes a dab of the numbing cream into his hand and applies it to himself. The song begins to lose its volume to illustrate Ara's loss of sensation, until it's almost muted, and all we can hear is the sound of Ara stroking himself. Suddenly, Tamar KNOCKS on the door. They speak Armenian, with English subtitles: TAMAR (O.S.) Ara. Is that you in there? Ara panics. He washes himself, trying to lose the erection. ARA (nervous) I'll be out in a few minutes. TAMAR (O.S.) You've been using the bathroom a lot lately. Is your tummy upset? ARA Yeah. TAMAR (O.S.) Open the door. The door knob shakes. She's trying to get in. ARA I'm still doing it! TAMAR (O.S.) Don't flush the toilet, okay? I wanna see the color of your poopy. INT. DR. STEINBERG'S OFFICE - DAY Ara sighs, frustrated. ARA What is it her business what I'm doing in the bathroom, anyway? I don't go interrupting her midprayer at Church, asking her what she's praying about.
STEINBERG Is she a prominent character in many of your stories?
ARA All of them.
ARA My English teacher once said: "Write what you know." Well, when it came to young boys and mommy issues, I've always fancied myself an authority on the Subject Matter.
-- Tamar dusts the dresser and night-stand.
-- She vacuums the carpet. Changes the sheets.
-- Sprays the mirror with Windex. Wipes it clean, while scrutinizing her aging face.
-- Enters the room with clean laundry, folding each article of clothing with scientific precision.
-- Opens the dresser and notices an incongruity in the way the sweaters are folded. She removes everything from the dresser. Finds a PLAYBOY magazine.
Dr. Steinberg stares at Ara.
STEINBERG And how did that make you feel, when she found the magazine?
ARA Guilty.
STEINBERG In what way?
ARA I wanted to be someone else. Someone better.
33. ARA Ara the Beautiful. STEINBERG Is that someone you're named after? Ara nods his head. ARA He's this old Armenian legend. My mom used to read stories about him before bed. STEINBERG And what did Ara the Beautiful do? ARA Nothing. That's the thing. He's only remembered because some queen waged war against Armenia just to have him. STEINBERG So why do you wish you were him? ARA Cuz I wanna know what that's like. To be so desirable, it could start wars. Dr. Steinberg jots a note. STEINBERG How did your mom react when she found the magazine? ARA In my story or in real life? STEINBERG Is there a difference? Ara looks at him like, "Good point." INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT A BED covered in white linen is in the center of an empty room surrounded by dim-lit candles. Ara's body is covered by WHITE SHEETS. Tamar, whose face is concealed by a dark hood like the Sith Lord from Star Wars, emerges from the darkness of the room. Circles the bed, performing an exorcism.
34. She CHANTS what sounds like a cross between a prayer and an elegy while shaking a CENSER. The incense and smoke from the censer permeate the room like a thick fog. After the ritual, she pulls the covers off the bed revealing... INT. DR. TOROSSIAN'S OFFICE - DAY Ara, now 22, beard grown, lying on a therapy recliner, eyes shut. He's back in the office we remember from the beginning. TOROSSIAN (O.S.) Your mother isn't as intimidating as you make her out to be. His eyes OPEN. ARA Well, that's cuz she's never fondled your balls before. Dr. Torossian stares at Ara, shocked. ARA Relax. Just a joke. TOROSSIAN That's not funny. ARA You sound just like her. TOROSSIAN Maybe she can't tell when you're lying, either. ARA Sometimes, sure, I exaggerate a few details, but that's only cuz my life is boring. I'm doing you a favor here. TOROSSIAN I'm not here to be entertained. I'm here to help you. But I can't do that unless you tell me the truth. ARA I am telling the truth. TOROSSIAN Tell me who David is.
35. ARA I told you. He's my best friend. TOROSSIAN And you expect me to believe that he sold you some numbing cream behind our Church? ARA Stranger things have happened. TOROSSIAN Why is he so concerned about your virginity? Ara looks down, unsure if he can trust the doctor. TOROSSIAN Everything you say in this room is strictly confidential. It's just you and me. ARA Cuz he thinks I secretly like dudes. Dr. Torossian's eyes open. TOROSSIAN Do you... ARA No! God really did a huge disservice to me by making me straight. Gay men have great taste, and I know this for a fact because one actually complimented my eyebrows once... Ara sighs, smiling. ARA I've never felt more validated in my life. TOROSSIAN Did David compliment your eyebrows? Ara looks down at his lap. David (22) suddenly POPS UP from behind Dr. Torossian's chair.
36. DAVID Answer him! Tell him "No!" David walks around Dr. Torossian's chair and looks at the doctor's bewildered expression. Turns back to Ara. DAVID Great. Now he thinks we're lovers. You realize how bad this looks? Dr. Torossian checks behind his chair, all around the room. TOROSSIAN Is David in the room right now? Ara's EYES wander the room, trying to focus, but the room is a BLUR. We hear faint sounds of BEES BUZZING. David's LIPS approach Ara's EAR. DAVID He's fucking your mind. Ara holds both his ears. The BUZZING noises consume the room. We ZOOM INTO Ara's EYE, which magically transforms into: A BEE HIVE EXT. PLAYGROUND - DAY The hive hangs on an overhead pole of a swing set. Bees chaotically SWARM out the nest, a visual metaphor for Ara's equally chaotic, disorganized thoughts. He CLENCHES onto the chain. The BEES CONSUME Ara's tiny body as he swings in mid-air. CUT TO: INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT ON THE TELEVISION A GIANT BEE traps a man and woman inside a giant honey comb. A scene from the 1961 movie Mysterious Island. Phoebe and Ara, 16-years-old, sit next to each other as they watch the movie. This is the most intimate we've seen them so far as boyfriend and girlfriend.
37. ARA It's ridiculous. There were no giant bees in the book. PHOEBE Who cares? ARA If Jules Verne came back to life and saw what Hollywood has done to his novel, he'd ask Gaston to shoot him again and not miss. PHOEBE If it's bothering you that much, pick another movie. Ara jumps off the bed. Scans his DVD rack. ARA How about Last Year at Marienbad? PHOEBE No. That movie's stupid. Ara looks at Phoebe shocked, as if she committed blasphemy. ARA Just cuz you don't get it doesn't mean it's stupid. PHOEBE What's there to get? It's disjointed and confusing. ARA It's supposed to be like a dream. PHOEBE I thought dreams were supposed to be interesting. ARA Are yours? PHOEBE I don't remember them. ARA Well I remember mine. And they look exactly like that movie. PHOEBE Sounds like torture.
38. Ara scratches his head, giving up. ARA So what do you wanna watch? PHOEBE Something in English. With a plot. Ara shows her the cover of Casablanca PHOEBE You remembered. ARA How could I forget our first movie together. Phoebe, as if possessed by a sudden sexual urge, wraps her legs around Ara's hips. They make out passionately, while Ara slides his hands underneath Phoebe's shirt. FREEZE FRAME PHOEBE (O.S.) This is such bullshit. INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - DAY Phoebe, still 16, reads Ara's story on his bed. She glares at Ara, sitting next to his typewriter. PHOEBE Do you really have that low of an opinion of me, that I would throw myself all over you because of a stupid movie? ARA You think I should switch Casablanca with something else? PHOEBE The movie's not the issue! All this story tells me is how out of touch you are with reality. ARA I don't think it's too far from the realm of possibility.
39. PHOEBE Trust me. It is. ARA Did you get the point of the movie references? PHOEBE Who cares about the fucking movie references! ARA They serve an important function to the narrative! PHOEBE They're just self-indulgent! How am I supposed to relate to this? ARA Cuz of the romantic subtext. PHOEBE (reading from the story) "Ara felt Phoebe's slender thighs wrap around his waist as he slid his hands underneath her blouse and caressed her firm nipples." This is smut thinly concealed by pretentious prose and obscure references. Phoebe throws the paper in the air. PHOEBE It's all cerebral navel-gazing misogynistic bullshit! I wanna engage your story on an emotional level. But I can't. Ara arches forward, shaking his head. ARA I don't know how. Phoebe, surprised by Ara's rare sign of vulnerability, gets behind Ara's chair. Wraps her arms around his chest. PHOEBE You have to let yourself feel. Ara takes notice of the SCARS on Phoebe's wrists.
ARA You're right.
Ara stands, facing Phoebe.
ARA I'm sorry.
Phoebe hugs him for a lengthy beat, her eyes closed, smiling.
Soon enough, her smile regresses into a frown.
She felt the erection in his pants.
PHOEBE Fuck you.
Heads for the door.
ARA Phoebe, wait! I didn't mean to! I-I lack control!
She SLAMS the door.
Ara sighs.
Picks up the pages of his story that Phoebe threw in the air.
A 16-year-old David emerges from a dark corner.
ARA There's nothing you can say that will make me feel worse than I already do.
David recedes back into the dark corner.
Ara sits at his desk, in front of his typewriter, frustrated.
Inserts a new sheet. Begins typing.
REAL ARA (V.O.) Three years had passed since Fiona entered Ara's life, and with every passing year he grew more and more enchanted by her illustrious beauty...
We're back to the fictional fantasy world, picking up three years after the previous black and white sequence.
Fiona reads to Ara, now 13, from a collection of Edgar Allan Poe's stories.
REAL ARA (V.O.) ...The stories she read to him at night were darker, more mature, which Ara interpreted as a good sign, as it meant that he was no longer a child in her eyes, but a man.
FIONA "And then the brush was given, and then the tint was placed; and, for one moment, the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought; but in the next, while he yet gazed, he grew tremulous and very pallid, and aghast, and crying with a loud voice, 'This is indeed Life itself!' Turned suddenly to regard his beloved: -- She was dead."
She shuts the book.
ARA Fiona.
ARA The painter, he didn't mean for his wife to die, right?
FIONA What do you think?
Ara shrugs his shoulders.
FIONA Maybe what killed the painter's wife wasn't his love for her, but his love for himself.
Ara peers down, trying to wrap his mind around this.
42. FIONA That's enough stories for tonight. Ara jumps out of his meditative state. ARA No. FIONA It's getting late. ARA The painter loved his wife. That's why he painted her. So he'd never forget her. FIONA I think it's selfish to trap a woman inside a frame just to remember her forever. ARA I think it's romantic. Fiona smiles. FIONA You still have much to learn about love. She gives him a kiss on his forehead. Leaves the room. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara was about to understand what she meant, for something happened in that moment, something that would change everything. Ara notices a BUMP underneath his blanket. Curious, he pokes it. It moves slightly, disturbing him. Jumps out of bed in a panic. REAL ARA (V.O.) A foreign sensation had possessed Ara, causing much confusion... Cautiously slides his hand down his pants. REAL ARA (V.O.) ...And arousing more curiosity. He walks to his TV . Hooks his 8 MM CAMERA to the TV.
43. ON THE TELEVISION It's Ara's raw footage of Fiona sleeping, the very same footage he captured three years ago in the previous black and white sequence while peeping in her room. BACK TO SCENE Cue the French song, Un Homme et Une Femme, the same song we heard in the earlier bathroom scenes. Ara leans on the TV, masturbating to the footage of Fiona. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara was drawn to his television as a painter is drawn to his canvas. For the first time in his life, he felt empowered, in control. He had found his paintbrush and used it in broad, sweeping strokes. INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Ara sits at a desk near the fireplace, writing a letter using an old fountain pen. Above the fireplace hangs the FRAMED POSTER of the Renoir painting featuring the young girl. It's the same one we saw juxtaposed with Fiona when we first met her. REAL ARA (V.O.) He felt certain desires inside his heart, desires he had never felt before. FANTASY MONTAGE - INNOCENCE LOST - BLACK AND WHITE -- EXT. OPEN FIELD - DAWN -- Fiona catches fireflies. Her hands glow, illuminating her cleavage. REAL ARA (V.O.) He wanted to see her naked. -- EXT. BEACH - DAY -- Fiona emerges seductively out of the water, wearing a soaking white T-shirt. REAL ARA (V.O.) He wanted to see her naked. -- EXT. WOODS - DAY -- Instead of jumping into a pile of leaves, a pile of leaves fall on her leaf-covered chest. REAL ARA (V.O.) He wanted to see her naked.
44. INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Ara has spilled ink all over his letter. Just the thought of Fiona has caused this accident. REAL ARA (V.O.) But most of all, he just wanted to marry he could see her naked. Slips a a TOY RING from a Cracker Jack box into the envelope. INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT - BLACK AND WHITE The SEALED ENVELOPE sits on top of Ara's night-stand, along with a bottle of champagne and two wine glasses. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara had made all the arrangements for his special proposal. Ara lies in bed, surrounded by ROSE HEADS assembled in the shape of a HEART, wearing nothing but whitey tighties. REAL ARA (V.O.) Now all he had to do was wait... We're fixed on the CLOSED DOOR, slowly zooming forward. REAL ARA (V.O.) ...And so he did. He waited for Fiona's graceful entrance and the inevitable consummation... We remain on the door for a while, in silence, but nothing. Ara rises. Jumps off the bed, careful not to ruin the flower arrangement on his sheets. Turns the TV on. He watches the footage of Fiona sleeping with an obsessive gaze. REAL ARA (V.O.) Fiona radiated a divine energy, one that was capable of luring unwary sailors onto rocks. And that she did so in her sleep only reinforced her magnetic power over Ara, who was consumed by euphoria in an alarmingly hypnotic manner. Perhaps it was hypnosis that compelled Ara to do what he was about to do... Ara slides his hand down his underwear.
45. REAL ARA (V.O.) ...But it was more likely the case that he was just thirteen, stupid, and really horny. Suddenly, Fiona enters the room, catching him masturbating to her image. They both stare into each other's eyes. Fiona shocked. Ara traumatized. INT. BATHROOM - NIGHT Ara BURSTS through the door, sliding against it. His attention shifts to the TOILET. He Crawls to it, frantically unzipping his pants. On the sink counter is a LOTION BOTTLE. Ara squeezes some into his hand. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara wondered how it was possible for a single woman to possess so much power. To inspire such passion in one moment... Cue the French song, Un Homme et Une Femme, but this time it CRACKLES and SKIPS, as if playing from a scratched record. REAL ARA (V.O.) ...Only to rob all pleasure in the next. INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT - BLACK AND WHITE Tears in his eyes, Ara scrutinizes the FRAMED POSTER above the fireplace of the girl who represents Fiona. REAL ARA (V.O.) He felt dirty and broken. How could someone as beautiful and as perfect as Fiona ever love someone so vile, so deviant? He tosses the unopened envelope INTO THE FIRE. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara did what any monster in his position would do. His face illuminated by the fire, he smiles a devious smile.
46. We stay fixed on the FRAMED POSTER, until we... CUT TO: ...The EMPTY FRAME, now missing the poster. INT. FIONA'S ROOM - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Ara spies THROUGH THE CRACK. Tamar yells at Fiona, while George tries taming her. Fiona sits on the bed, silent and sad. REAL ARA (V.O.) When the poster was later discovered underneath Fiona's bed by Ara, the only person who would even suspect her of committing such a crime... EXT. WASHINGTON, D.C. - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE We're UP IN THE CLOUDS, following an AIRPLANE. REAL ARA (V.O.) ...She was fired as care-taker and banished back to Paris. We TILT DOWN from the airplane to see THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT, directly in the center of the frame. REAL ARA (V.O.) Framing Fiona was easy. The real challenge now was forgetting she ever existed. COLOR slowly bleeds into the world. REAL ARA (V.O.) And so Ara tried. The Cherry Blossoms have bloomed, and everything seems perfect in the heart of D.C., as postcards and tourist fliers would have you think. Real Ara and Phoebe, 16, step into the frame, strolling along the walking paths that surround the Monument. They're in the earliest stage of their relationship, keeping their distance as strangers would, though it's obvious there's attraction.
ARA It's just, when was the last time you heard a great love story set in this city?
PHOEBE Jimmy and Jean had great chemistry in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
ARA So did the cast of 12 Angry Men, but sweaty guys locked up in one room isn't exactly my idea of romantic.
PHOEBE I thought that movie was set in New York.
Ara looks down, wondering if she's right.
PHOEBE Anyway, I know what you mean. This place gets a bad rep because of all the politics and stuff, but it's not that bad if you give it a chance.
ARA Are you sure 12 Angry Men was set in New York?
PHOEBE Pretty sure.
ARA I could've sworn...Great, see what you've done?
ARA Yeah. It's not everyday I get to walk a girl home. There's all this tension, and now I have to deal with my horrible misinterpretation of that film's setting.
Phoebe rolls her eyes in a playful way.
ARA What?
48. PHOEBE You're weird. ARA That's actually one of my best qualities, second only to my symmetrical pectoral muscles. Ara flexes his flat chest, while Phoebe cracks a smile. INT. SMITHOSONIAN American Art MUESEUM - DAY They walk through the gallery, glancing at paintings of American Women captured in paint and oil. David is also present, keeping tabs on Ara's progress from a distance. PHOEBE It's kinda creepy, isn't it? ARA What? PHOEBE It's like, we're in a prison. ARA Art museum, prison...What's the difference? PHOEBE Look at her. She points to a painting of Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler, wearing all black, staring back with an expressionless gaze. PHOEBE It's like she doesn't wanna be here. ARA Those pads on her shoulder aren't doing her any favors. She turns to another painting in the same room, of a domestic woman holding a vase containing a flower. PHOEBE None of these women are smiling. ARA Maybe the painters just forgot to say "cheese."
Phoebe smiles.
ARA Hey. Do that again.
ARA Smile.
She blushes and covers her braces.
PHOEBE Why? You wanna draw me like one of your French girls?
ARA Me? Draw? I can't even aim straight when I pee.
She laughs, revealing her braces. A sign she's getting comfortable around him.
They're in the American Stories exhibit. They stop to look at Dorothy's Ruby Slippers in a glass enclosure.
PHOEBE They looked shinier in the movie.
ARA You ever feel like Dorothy?
PHOEBE Like I wish I were home? Yeah. Right now.
Ara looks down.
ARA I can take you back if you --
PHOEBE Relax. You're not the only one who can dish out sarcasm, you know.
Ara smiles.
PHOEBE So what, you think I'm like Dorothy?
50. ARA No. Forget it. PHOEBE Come on. Don't be a square. ARA Fine. You know how our parents are immigrants, right? PHOEBE Oh, no. ARA What? PHOEBE You're going there. ARA Where? PHOEBE You think we're outsiders. They look at the ruby slippers inside the glass enclosure, from the outside in. ARA I don't think that. It's more like, we're stuck between two worlds. PHOEBE No we're not. You were born here, weren't you? ARA Yeah, but -- PHOEBE So you're American. ARA Well. That settles it. PHOEBE Damn right it does. ARA How'd you become such a master of persuasion? PHOEBE I'm a chick, remember? It's innate.
51. INT. SMITHSONIAN THEATER - NIGHT The theater screens Casablanca. It's the flashback scene where Rick and Isla are in Paris, back when they first met. Phoebe turns to Ara, who seems more in love with the film than with the beautiful girl sitting next to him. EXT. SMITHSONIAN THEATER - NIGHT They walk out of the theater, followed distantly by David. ARA What an amazing night. PHOEBE You mean it? Ara looks into Phoebe's eyes. They have a moment. He could probably go for a kiss, but instead: ARA Yeah. Can you believe we got to see Casablanca on the big screen? Phoebe looks down. David throws his hands in the air, giving up. He walks off screen. Ara looks around. Notices David is gone. PHOEBE What's wrong? He takes her hand. ARA Come with me. EXT. ARLINGTON MEMORIAL BRIDGE - NIGHT The bridge extends across the Potomac River, which reflects the lights and the nearby Lincoln Memorial in a beautifully picturesque composition. Ara and Phoebe sit on a bench, taking in the scenery, their bodies silhouetted against the background. The shot is reminiscent of the bridge scene from Woody Allen's Manhattan, though it's not shot in black and white.
PHOEBE It's so beautiful when the lights come out, especially this time of year.
ARA It's really something.
Ara takes Phoebe's hand. Caresses her scars.
ARA Does it hurt?
Phoebe pulls her hand away.
ARA I'm sorry, I didn't mean to.
They sit in silence for a beat.
PHOEBE If you could teleport anywhere in the world, where would you go?
ARA Any place but here.
PHOEBE Like where?
ARA Paris maybe.
PHOEBE Oh, I've been there.
ARA Really?
She points at TWO SCARS on her wrist.
Ara looks at her like she's nuts. But he plays along is he.
ARA What was it like?
PHOEBE Magical.
53. ARA If I were you, I would've just stayed there. PHOEBE It doesn't last forever. ARA Really? How long does it last? PHOEBE Until I can't feel again. Ara looks deep into Phoebe's eyes, a rare thing for him. She looks away. ARA You ever see Manhattan? PHOEBE I've never been to New York. ARA No. I mean the movie. She shakes her head. ARA I wish I could feel about a place the way Woody Allen feels about New York. PHOEBE What do you mean? ARA He says New York, to him, exists in black and white and pulsates to the great tunes of George Gershwin. PHOEBE I like that. But who's George Gershwin? ARA I don't know. But whoever he is, you can't hear his great tunes here in D.C. They sit in silence, while crickets chirp. Phoebe rests her head against Ara's shoulder.
54. INT. DR. TOROSSIAN'S OFFICE - DAY Ara is 22-years-old again, with the beard. He doesn't say anything for a while, having an introspective moment. ARA I've been having these really unsettling thoughts enter my mind recently -- thoughts that seem so adolescent, so shameful, so... out of character for someone my age... The camera spins counter-clockwise, toward Dr. Torossian... ARA (O.S.) It's like, everything feels backwards. When I was a kid, my idea of relationships was so much more mature. I dreamed about love and romance and finding the one, you know? But the last thing on my mind right now is settling down... The camera passes Dr. Torossian, and bleeds into... INT. DR. STEINBERG'S OFFICE - DAY We continue spinning, slowly, until we see Ara again, now 19, no beard. His acne is also a bit more severe, to suggest his younger age. ARA ...I'm obsessed with sex. But it's not even the physical act of sex that I obsess about cuz it's not like I'm getting any. It's the theory of sex, the concept, you know? We spin toward Dr. Steinberg. ARA (O.S.) But I'm not sure if that's even healthy. It can't be. How can you obsess about something you've never experienced? How can you fall in love with an intangible idea? We continue spinning, going further back in time, until... INT. FIRST SHRINK'S OFFICE - DAY ...We land on Ara, 16. The camera stops on him.
55. He speaks directly to us, as if we're his shrink. ARA It's over. Phoebe and I broke up and I-I still can't get my mind around that. You know, I-I keep sifting the pieces of the relationship through my mind andand examining my life and trying to figure out where did the screw-up come, you know? A month ago we love. INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - DAY - FLASHBACK Ara and Phoebe sit next to each other on the edge of his bed, backs toward us, watching TV. This was first scene of the movie. ON THE TELEVISION Fiona sleeps in bed, captured in BLACK AND WHITE with a shaky handy cam. BACK TO SCENE Phoebe turns to Ara. ARA I was so young when I found her like this...just sleeping. She looked so beautiful, I can still remember how powerless she made me feel...Like I didn't have a choice. It was either: capture this one moment, this one memory, or let it go. She shifts her gaze back to the television. ON THE TELEVISION The camera SLOWLY ZOOMS forward, framing Fiona's face within the confines of the screen. ARA (O.S.) I can't let it go. I'm like this kid catching fireflies, trapping them in jars, mine to keep, forever. BACK TO SCENE
56. Phoebe places her hand on top his, searching for a connection. ARA Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember...I need to remember...Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world... PHOEBE ...You feel like you can't take it. Ara finally locks eyes with Phoebe, shocked. PHOEBE Next time you wanna impress me, steal from a movie I haven't seen. Phoebe jumps off the bed, pissed. ARA Shit. David jumps out of the dark corner of the room. DAVID What the fuck's wrong with you?! ARA How was I supposed to know she's seen American Beauty? DAVID Who hasn't seen American Beauty?! Phoebe stares at Ara talking to himself. PHOEBE Who are you talking to? ARA (to David) You're gonna ruin everything. Just leave me alone! Phoebe glares at Ara. She stands. ARA Wait! Not you. Ara waves his arm behind his back, telling David to leave. He hides back in the dark corner.
57. PHOEBE What's your problem, huh? Every time we're together, it's always something. If you want me to go... ARA Phoebe, please...It's not that. PHOEBE Then what is it!? Ara peers down, ashamed about what he's about to say. ARA I'm... PHOEBE You're what? DAVID (O.S.) Oh, God. Please don't say "gay." ARA ...I'm scared. PHOEBE Of what? ARA It's my first time, never forget your first time. PHOEBE So never forget me. She goes in for a kiss, but Ara pulls away. Phoebe takes a deep breath for what she's about to ask. PHOEBE What do you want from me? Ara peers down, but Phoebe lifts his chin back up. PHOEBE Look in my eyes and tell me: what do you want from me? Ara says nothing, because he wants nothing. Phoebe lets go of him, and steps back. PHOEBE It's Fiona, isn't it?
Ara looks down again.
Phoebe turns away from Ara, shaking her head.
ARA I know it sounds crazy, but--
She faces him.
PHOEBE It's not just crazy, it's psychotic! You're so obsessed with your own creations, you can't even see a good thing when it's standing right in front of you.
ARA Phoebe, please try to...
Ara tries comforting her.
PHOEBE Don't touch me! I knew there was something off about you right from the beginning. But no, I said. No. He's different. He's unique.
Suddenly Tamar KNOCKS on the door.
ARA Shit.
In a state of panic, Ara holds his hand over Phoebe's mouth.
ARA Shhh.
Phoebe struggles to break free.
TAMAR (O.S.) What are you doing in there?
She breaks free.
PHOEBE Get it through your sick, twisted head: she will never love you! Know why?
Phoebe runs to the door.
59. ARA Please. Don't... She opens the door. His mother isn't there. PHOEBE Cuz she's a figment of your own fucking imagination! SLAMS the door behind her. Ara turns to the television. ON THE TELEVISION Like in Ara's bathroom fantasies, Fiona opens her eyes, stares directly into the camera. Smiles at us. BACK TO SCENE Enraged, he pushes the TV off the stand, shattering the screen. He sits at his desk, in front of his typewriter. Slides a new sheet. ON THE PAGE We see Ara type the title of a new story: "CUNT" BACK TO SCENE A smile takes shape on his face as he types away. INT. PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE - DAY - FLASBACK - A FEW DAYS LATER Ara sits in a chair across from MR. DUPONT, the principal. MS. TAMMY stands in the corner of the room, a paper firmly clasped in her hand. MR. DUPONT Do you know why we've called you in here? Ara shakes his head. MS. TAMMY How about this for a little reminder. She hands him his PAPER titled CUNT.
60. MS. TAMMY You know what this is? ARA Yes ma'am. It's my story. MS. TAMMY This is no story. She snatches the paper out of Ara's hand. MS. TAMMY This is disgusting pornography. Ara peers down at his lap, ashamed. MR. DUPONT Ms. Tammy and I are very concerned with what you've written here. ARA It's fiction. Mr. Dupont WHISPERS something into Ms. Tammy's ear. She leaves his office. Mr. Dupont writes something on a green slip. Hands it to Ara. MR. DUPONT Take this to Mr. Spencer's office. EXT. MR. SPENCER'S OFFICE - DAY - FLASHBACK Ara looks inside the office through the small window on the door. Ms. Tammy is there with him. Knocks on the door. We meet MR. SPENCER, the guidance counselor. MR. SPENCER Come in. MS. TAMMY Thank you, Ryan. I'll see you at lunch. Ms. Tammy stares at Ara sternly as she walks past him.
61. INT. MR. SPENCER'S OFFICE - DAY - FLASHBACK Mr. Spencer's office is smaller than Mr. Dupont's, almost claustrophobic. MR. SPENCER Have a seat. Mr. Spencer sits on his chair and analyzes Ara's story. He briefly peers over the paper as he skims through it, observing Ara from the corner of his eye. Flips two pages and starts reading. MR. SPENCER "We were just kissing. She had soft lips, so I didn't mind. Nothing was supposed to happen. I never asked her to take her clothes off, so I didn't understand why she did. Phoebe's legs curled on top of my shoulders and wrapped around my back, sealing me in, like I was being trapped inside a giant honeycomb." Mr. Spencer shifts his gaze from the paper back to Ara. Ara peers down at his lap, embarrassed, as immobile and vulnerable as the narrator in his story. David is now in the room, sitting next to Ara in the chair next to his. DAVID Of all the names you could have picked, you go and pick Phoebe. MR. SPENCER (reading) "I was scared. I wanted her to give me some guidance, but she didn't. So I just stared. I stared long into the abyss. DAVID Yeah, cuz it's normal to think existential thoughts before going down on a girl. Mr. Spencer clears his dry throat for the next few lines.
62. MR. SPENCER "Phoebe asked me if there was anything wrong. I could sense her frustration. I wish I could say something. But I didn't. I just stared into her eyes, hoping we could go back to kissing. But she grasped my hair and pushed my head down..." David stands. Turns away from Ara, disgusted. MR. SPENCER "...The more she pushed, the more the ugly details came into focus. There was a little dark flap in between two asymmetrical mounds of skin. And then there was the smell, which--" ARA Please stop. MR. SPENCER You understand why everyone is concerned here. ARA But none of it is real. MR. SPENCER Ms. Tammy says one of the characters here shares the same name as a student in your class. ARA That was a mistake. I meant to change her name, but I was tired and angry. DAVID Don't forget "and stupid." MR. SPENCER Angry about what? ARA Will you shut up! MR. SPENCER Excuse me? Ara stares into space, avoiding eye contact.
ARA I was talking to Dave.
MR. SPENCER Dave who?
ARA Nobody.
MR. SPENCER He doesn't sound like a nobody.
Ara's eyes lock with Mr. Spencer's.
ARA He's dead, okay.
David glares at Ara.
MR. SPENCER I'm sorry. How did he pass?
Ara stares into space for a lengthy beat.
ARA He was allergic to bees.
DAVID I'm tired of your bullshit. Fuck you.
He leaves the room, SLAMMING the door behind him.
Ara rubs his forehead, frustrated.
MR. SPENCER I see you're dealing with some unresolved issues, but that doesn't excuse--
Ara dashes out of the room, in pursuit of David.
Ara chases after David through the labyrinth-like hallways, visually parallel to the earlier scene when they were kids in the woods.
He struggles to catch up with David, who runs too fast for him.
64. ARA Dave. Wait for me! David doesn't slow down, eventually disappearing when he turns a corner. As Ara turns the corner, he knocks into Phoebe, causing her to drop her books. PHOEBE Hey. Watch where you're going. ARA I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. Ara picks up the books, avoiding eye contact. PHOEBE Hey. You're in my English class, right? He hands her the books. Notices something: Her wrists. No cutting scars. She exists in reality, but she's not the same girl Ara created in his own imagination. BEES Suddenly SWARM out of the classrooms. They BUZZ as they pass Ara, holding his hands over his ears, trying to drown out the loud, unpleasant noise. Phoebe gets CONSUMED BY THE BEES. Ara flees to the only safe haven he's ever known... INT. SCHOOL'S BATHROOM - DAY He rushes to the stall. Shuts the door on our face. His pants FALL to his feet. The BUZZING NOISES get DROWNED OUT by a familiar French song, Un Homme et Une Femme, the same song we now associate with Ara's masturbatory escapes. The music stops abruptly when we hear a FLUSHING SOUND, followed by SILENCE. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara had made a huge mistake.
65. He opens the stall's door. A black and white Ara, still 16, steps out of the stall, leaving COLOR behind him, a visual twist on Dorothy's entrance to the colorful land of Oz. Fictional Ara stares at his black and white reflection in the mirror. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ridden with guilt for the terrible things he had done, he could no longer define who he was or who he should be. Ara rubs his thumb across his lips, as if he were Bogart (or Jean-Paul Belmondo from Breathless pretending to be Bogart). INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT - BLACK AND WHITE We're back to the black and white world of fiction. Ara lies in bed, watching television. REAL ARA (V.O.) In the years following Fiona's exile, Ara's world turned cold and barren. The camera slowly spins clock-wise, toward the television, reminiscent of the previous sequence in the therapy rooms, except this time, we're moving forward in time. ON THE TELEVISION Stock footage of iconic AMERICAN ACTRESSES: Rita Hayworth, Betty Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall... REAL ARA (V.O.) He searched all of America to find a suitable replacement for Fiona, one who could restore balance and order to his world. ...Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly... As we continue spinning, we land back on Ara, who's now 19, wearing glasses, his acne a bit clearer to suggest his older age. REAL ARA (V.O.) But these women were muses for other men. Not for him.
66. We continue spinning, until we see: ON THE TELEVISION Stock footage of iconic FRENCH ACTRESSES: Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Jeanne Moreau... REAL ARA (V.O.) ...Desperate to find purpose and meaning again in his life, he turned to France, hoping there he might find a new muse. ...Anouk Aimйe, Anna Karina, Jean Seberg, Delphine Seyrig... We land back on Ara, now 22, no glasses, with faded acne scars. We stop spinning. REAL ARA (V.O.) But it was hopeless. These women, as beautiful as they were, could never replace the feelings Ara felt for his first and only love. So he decided it was time for some changes, starting with this: He flips the TELEVISION OFF. INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT - BLACK AND WHITE Ara slides the Renoir poster out of the glass frame. INT. RONALD REAGAN AIRPORT - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Ara runs to his flight's gate, carrying a rolled up poster. He wears a fedora and trench coat, alluding to Humphrey Bogart's iconic style. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara realized he could no longer afford to be a passive participant in his own life. He knew exactly what he had to do. And nothing, not even his own fears, could stop him from facing his past now. Ara hands his ticket to a flight attendant. Boards the plane. EXT. WASHINGTON, D.C. - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE We're UP IN THE CLOUDS, following an AIRPLANE.
67. We TILT DOWN from the airplane to see THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT, directly in the center of the frame. COLOR slowly bleeds into the world. The Cherry Blossoms are dead, and everything seems more gray and cold since last time we were here, as is typical of Washington D.C. in the wintertime. Real Ara, still 22, enters the frame from the left side. He's wearing the same fedora and trench coat as his fictional counterpart. RUNS ACROSS the screen to the other side, like he's facing his past head on. INT. SMITHOSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUESEUM - DAY Phoebe, now 22, has gracefully moved on from her past. She's grown into a beautiful woman and no longer wears braces. She looks at a French painting, The Reader, portraying a mysterious young girl reading a book. Ara steps into the frame timidly. ARA She looks happy. She glares at him. ARA It's amazing. The power words possess. PHOEBE I thought I said I never wanted to see you again. Phoebe walks away. He runs after her. ARA Phoebe, wait. Please. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. I know that. Most of them I don't even regret because it's not in my character to pity anyone but myself. She's about to turn around again. She knows him all too well.
68. ARA But how I treated you, the things I said, the things I wrote, I-I don't think I can ever live down. PHOEBE Stop. Don't make this hard. Ara grabs Phoebe by the arms and peers into her eyes. ARA I know I'm no good at being charming or gallant or romantic. In fact, if I were saying this to your face in real life, I would have stuttered all over my lines... INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT Ara, still 22, sits in front of his typewriter. No surprise. He's the type who functions better behind the safety of his own stories. ARA (V.O.) ...And eye contact would have been out of the question. You deserve someone who can speak as eloquently as you can and look into your beautiful eyes and confront you in person instead of hiding behind stories. INT. SMITHOSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUESEUM - DAY A tear runs down Phoebe's cheek. ARA I'm sorry for hurting you and as much as I wish you could forgive me, I'll understand if you never do. She peers down. Ara pushes her chin up. ARA We'll always have Paris. Phoebe squints. PHOEBE We never went to Paris.
69. INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT Ara uses white-out to delete his last line. Tries one more time. INT. SMITHOSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUESEUM - DAY A tear runs down Phoebe's cheek. She peers down. Ara pushes her chin up. ARA Here's looking at you, kid. INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT Ara pulls the sheet out. Reads it over. Smiles. After a beat of silence, we hear a CREAKING NOISE. He stands. INT. BALIAN HOME - NIGHT Ara tiptoes to the source of the CREAKING NOISE: his parents' bedroom. Slowly turns the door knob. Tamar and Dr. Torossian are in bed together. They turn. Notice the door open, but Ara's gone. INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - NIGHT - DAY Ara BURSTS THROUGH the door. Slides against it, traumatized. After a beat, Tamar KNOCKS on the door. TAMAR (O.S.) Ara! Baby, please open up. DR. TOROSSIAN (O.S.) It's not what you think. Let's talk about this. Ara holds his hands over his ears, trying to silence their voices. DAVID (O.S.) I told you.
70. ARA No. No. Not now. David emerges from the dark corner. DAVID I told you he was fucking your mom. Ara glares at David. ARA You never said "mom." You said "mind!" DAVID Both words are monosyllabic and start with "m," so I deserve some credit. Ara's eyes widen, experiencing an epiphany. ARA You said "monosyllabic." DAVID So? ARA You would never use that word. DAVID ...I just did. ARA It's not in your character. DAVID You are one pretentious prick, you know that? You think you're the only one who's verbally dexterous? I'm the paragon of intricately articulate speech, motherfucker! Ara's attention shifts to the TYPEWRITER. DAVID What are you doing? Ara CRAWLS to the typewriter.
71. DAVID Don't you dare make me the antagonist here, you ungrateful piece of shit. I've only ever tried to help you! He slides a new sheet, while his mother continues POUNDING on the door. Cue Francis Lai's French song, Un Homme Et Une Femme, drowning out the outside noises as Ara types away on his typewriter and escapes to... EXT. CHARLES de Gaulle AIRPORT - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE ...The magical city of Paris. Fictional Ara exits the plane he boarded in the previous black and white sequence, wearing the fedora and trench coat. He carries the rolled up Renoir poster, the one he used to frame Fiona, the same one he hopes will help him find her. The song Un Homme Et Une Femme continues playing throughout the montage: MONTAGE - FINDING FIONA - BLACK AND WHITE -- EXT. PLACE DE LA CONCORDE - DAY -- Ara rolls open the poster. Shows it to a local Parisian sitting on the ornate fountain. He shrugs his shoulders. -- EXT. LUXEMBOURG GARDEN - DAY -- Shows the poster to an American tourist admiring one of the statues. She shakes her head. -- EXT. ALEXANDRE III BRIDGE - DAY -- Shows the poster to another Parisian. He observes the poster closely, and points off in the distance at a glass pyramid. -- EXT. LOUVRE MUSEUM - DAY -- Ara stands just outside the glass pyramid, an entrance to France's largest museum. Takes a deep breath, and enters. END MONTAGE INT. LOUVRE MUSEUM - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Ara searches the museum for the real Renoir painting of the girl in his poster. He finally finds it. Hides behind a corner. Peeks from the side. A woman stands in front of the painting.
72. REAL ARA (V.O.) Could it be? She turns her neck, as if waiting for someone. REAL ARA (V.O.) And there she was. Fiona hasn't aged a day, an immortal beauty, like the woman in the painting. REAL ARA (V.O.) Ara wondered if she would remember him. There was only one way to find out. He makes his way to her. REAL ARA (V.O.) He felt No Fear as he approached her, for years of imaginary practice rendered Ara confident and poised. But before he could say a word... Fiona turns again. She smiles. Except, not to Ara. David enters the frame. Kisses her on the cheek. It's the first time we've seen him in this black and white fantasy world. They hug. REAL ARA (V.O.) ...The moment passed. It seems Ara can't catch a break, not in his life, his dreams, or his own fiction. EXT. PARISIAN STREET - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE Ara walks along the sidewalk, slouched. The sky reflects his mood, gray and somber. Suddenly, it starts to rain. INT. NOTRE-DAME CATHEDRAL - DAY -BLACK AND WHITE Ara runs inside, soaking wet. The Cathedral is empty. He approaches the altar. Kneels and folds his hands.
73. ARA God. I come to you lost and confused. I need structure, I need direction, yet my life is chaos and disarray. I need your help. Please tell me why I'm here. Show me where I must go. MAN'S VOICE (O.S.) I wish I knew. Ara looks up. ARA Who said that? MAN'S VOICE (O.S.) Behind you. Ara turns. REAL ARA, identical, but represented in COLOR, sits on a pew. ARA My God. Ara stares at his real counterpart in disbelief, as if looking at his own reflection. ARA Are you here to lead me in your truth and teach me? Strengthen me? Uphold me with your righteous right hand? REAL ARA This hand? Righteous? Look. I'm only here cuz I'm stuck. ARA But you're God. You can't be stuck. REAL ARA You're giving me way too much credit. I'm not a God. I'm not even third-person omniscient. ARA So what are you? REAL ARA Just a self-absorbed writer with poor self-esteem.
74. ARA And this was the best you could do? Me? A loser? REAL ARA Hey. I never said I had a great imagination, okay? ARA What do you want from me? Real Ara looks down. ARA Look in my eyes. What do you want from me? REAL ARA I want you to suffer as I've suffered, knowing the one woman you love can never be yours. Fictional Ara steps back. ARA My God. You're a psychopath. Fictional Ara turns to the exit. He makes a a run for it down the long aisle. Opens the Cathedral's doors, only to find a mirror reflection of the Cathedral. It doesn't matter which way he goes, forward or back, it all leads back to the same place. REAL ARA Think you can run away from your fate? ARA Leave me alone. REAL ARA This is my story! ARA It's not only your story. It's mine too! I'm flawed, I know I am. I've lied to everyone I've ever cared about, and I've destroyed everything that's ever mattered to me. REAL ARA You're a monster.
75. ARA Only cuz you created me in your own image! Don't you see? I wanna be a better person. But I can't do it alone. I need you to love me. But how can you, when you don't even love yourself? The heavy storm outside suddenly ends. ARA You deserve to be loved. We deserve to be loved. Light beams through the stained glass. Real Ara looks into the eyes of His creation, a version of himself He can finally love. Gestures toward the CLOSED DOORS of the cathedral. The doors to the Cathedral BURST OPEN, and out the blinding light steps out FIONA, represented in COLOR, for the first time. At the altar, we see FICTIONAL ARA from behind, a visual parallel to the dream sequence after the credits. Fiona walks the aisle. When she reaches Fictional Ara, she gets on her knees. Unbuckles his belt. Pulls his pants down. REVEAL from the waist down: he's wearing a CHASTITY BELT. SMASH CUT TO: INT. LAST SHRINK'S OFFICE - DAY Abrupt close-up shot of real Ara, now 40, with a significantly receded hairline. ARA When I was younger, I used to think my virginity was God's way of punishing me for being a terrible person. But what if God never intended me to get laid? Maybe it just wasn't part of His design. Ara stands. Starts pacing the room in a neurotic manner.
76. ARA Truth is, I don't know what God intended or didn't intend. So many questions in the world, and I don't know the answers to any of 'em. Is there life after death? Are we alone in the universe? What's the point of existence? Ara walks out of the office into... INT. COMEDY CLUB - NIGHT ...A small club in a natural, almost magical transition. He takes center stage, illuminated by the spotlight. Speaks into a microphone. ARA ...Yet despite all these great mysteries, only one question has truly perplexed my mind the most: why don't women love me as much as I love me? Ara turns to his side, to showcase his disproportionate profile. ARA I mean, look at me. Look at this face! A profile that harks back to the Gods of Ancient Greece, so symmetrical, so divine. It would have made Adonis green with envy! He turns back to the audience, comprised of numerous therapists jotting notes into a pad, including a few we've seen before, like Dr. Torossian and Dr. Steinberg. ARA Besides, being a forty-year-old virgin isn't as tragic as it sounds. I have a lot to be grateful for. For example, I'm not Oedipus. I don't know who did what to Sophocles, but talk about an unmerciful God. Ara walks off stage and back into... INT. LAST SHRINK'S OFFICE - DAY ...The therapy room in a natural, almost magical transition.
77. He Lies down on the recliner. ARA I know I may come across as someone who's egotistical and narcissistic, but it's not true. I, as a matter of fact, if I could identify with any Greek Mythological figure, it wouldn't be Narcissus. LAST THERAPIST (O.S.) Who would it be? ARA Zeus. The LAST THERAPIST chuckles. LAST THERAPIST That's a good one. ARA I know. I stole it from Woody Allen. LAST THERAPIST Do you still identify with him? ARA Not really. I mean, let's face it. I lack his wit, class, and intelligence. But if there was one similarity between us, it'd be that we both have a tendency to romanticize the past. (sighs) It's funny. Even after all these years, I still think about Phoebe. MONTAGE - PHOEBE, THE MUSE -- BLACK AND WHITE (Note: the following shots are captured as if Ara were recording Phoebe with his shaky handycam.) -- EXT. OPEN FIELD - DAWN -- Adult Phoebe catches fireflies. Her hands glow, illuminating her smiling face. ARA (V.O.) Despite my best efforts, I doubt I'll ever forget her...
78. -- EXT. BEACH - DAY -- Phoebe splashes water at us as she dances with the waves. ARA (V.O.) ...What she meant to me... -- EXT. WOODS - DAY -- Phoebe jumps into a great big pile of leaves, laughing. ARA (V.O.) ...Or the images that I associate with her character. -- INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - DAY -- POV of Ara's handycam: Phoebe reads one of his stories. She catches him spying on her. Pushes the camera away toward the MIRROR. IN THE MIRROR We see Ara and Phoebe, both 16, kissing on his bed. ARA (V.O.) Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I wonder how someone as beautiful and perfect as Phoebe ever loved someone like me. But mirrors...they only reflect what the mind perceives. The camera spins away from the mirror and toward the WINDOW. ARA (V.O.) And the can perceive anything... OUT THE WINDOW: A glorious black and white shot of Washington D.C., as if we're viewing the great city from the observation deck at the top of the Washington Monument. ARA (V.O.) You know, this city, it's tough to romanticize cuz in many ways, its reputation kinda reflects my character: cold and cynical and I'd even say corrupt, except I've never received money for my lies.
79. EXT. WASHINGTON, D.C. - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE We see a SERIES OF SHOTS of Washington D.C. pulsating to the tune of George Gershwin's An American in Paris: Parking lots, crowded streets, the Arlington Memorial Bridge, various hotels, the lamp-lit streets of Georgetown. ARA (V.O.) Don't get me wrong. I don't think this is an awful town. I've lived here all my life, and I really think it's a great place to grow up. It's full of history and art and beautiful women. Sure, it's got its flaws, but what city doesn't? It's kinda like having too much onions in your dolma. It'd taste better without 'em, but it wouldn't be dolma if you took 'em out. The music swells over more SHOTS of iconic D.C. landmarks, as the trumpets and drums enter the symphony: The Capitol, White House, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, National Archives, World War II Memorial... ARA (V.O.) To some, this place is a cesspool full of bitterness and partisanship and decay. But to me, Washington is a city that refuses to be defined by its past, even if change here can take a really long time. Our last image of D.C is of the WASHINGTON MONUMENT. ARA (V.O.) This is my city. The longer I stay, the more it grows on me...Still, I do think about what it'd be like to live somewhere else. Somewhere better. The Monument magically transforms into... EXT. PARIS - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE THE EIFFEL TOWER. ARA (V.O.) I dream about Paris a lot. And when I do, it looks so beautiful.
80. We see a SERIES OF POSTCARD-VIEW SHOTS, still pulsating to the tune of George Gershwin's An American in Paris: Cafйs, boutiques, outdoor restaurants, lamp-lit streets of Champs-Йlysйes, the Opйra, Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre. ARA (V.O.) I'm not sure what life is like here, but I don't wanna find out. I prefer seeing Paris as I see it in my dreams. Cuz in my dreams... A glorious shot of Paris, as if we're viewing the great city from the observation deck at the top of The Eiffel Tower. ARA (V.O.) ...Paris exists in black and white and pulsates to the great tunes of George Gershwin. We hear the sound of a TYPEWRITER BAR SLIDE. We zoom back and enter... INT. ARA'S BEDROOM - DAY - BLACK AND WHITE ...through the open window. Fictional Ara, identical to the 40-year-old real Ara, glows behind his typewriter. He pulls the last sheet out. Binds it to the rest of the pages to his finished story. We pan away from him, and onto a FRAMED POSTER on his wall. It's the Renoir painting, the same one that represents Fiona. We ZOOM IN ON THE POSTER, framing Fiona within the confines of the screen, imprisoned forever inside the frame. We're so close, we can almost touch her. But before we can admire her beauty for any significant amount of time... CUT TO BLACK SUPER: "One late autumn night, the disciple awoke crying. So the master asked the disciple, "Did you have a nightmare?" "No." "Did you have a sad dream?" "No," said the disciple. "I had a sweet dream." "Then why are you crying so sadly?" The disciple wiped his tears away and quietly answered, "Because the dream I had can't come true."

M Artinian

File: framing-fiona.pdf
Title: Framing Fiona 2015
Author: M Artinian
Published: Tue May 5 18:02:49 2015
Pages: 81
File size: 0.18 Mb

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