Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cliches I'm Tired of Seeing - Part Five - Racing to the airport...

There are some tropes that are so overused that it's pretty much impossible to use them effectively unless they are intended ironically. Recently, I read a script that used one of these and immediately tripped my "HACK ALERT." In the script, the central couple had experienced rocky times, and when the last straw came, the woman decided to pursue a job opportunity in Paris, which naturally meant she was flying out that very night.

I think you can guess where this is going - her ex-boyfriend, having realized the error of his ways is forced to race to the airport at the eleventh hour. With time ticking away as the woman is about to get on the plane he has to push his way past security, buy a ticket, and then race to the gate and deliver a big speech, winning her back.


For me, this particular gimmick passed its expiration date immediately after Not Another Teen Movie so brilliantly made fun of this sort of scene. Off the top of my head, I can't come up with where I saw this sort of scene first, but I know variations of it have been used in Love, Actually, Dawson's Creek, Three Men & a Baby.... where else? (Readers, that's your cue to comment below.) Unless the point of the scene is to make a joke of how cliched the plot twist is, steer clear of this.

And if you MUST do this, for the love of William Goldman, please don't make Paris the destination! That's about as unoriginal as you can get.


  1. Hey now, I've written a romantic comedy which has its end at airport! It's called "Cupid's Helpers." I wrote it a couple years ago.

    Logline: An award winning romantic comedy writer experiences romantic foibles of his own after a buisness associate of his, who has a secret crush on the writer, decides to join him on a trip back home for his high school reunion. There, at the reunion, the writer reuines with his own secret crush, who was the inspiration for the romantic stories that made him famous.

    My airport scene has the writer's buisness associate going to the airport in shame, after the writer spurred an elaborate plan she had for getting them together. The writer finds her out in the termaninal before her plane takes off and they talk... This takes place a Seatac Airport (Seattle's airport) with the buisness associate heading back to Los Angeles.

    Is that too chiche for you? I know Billy Mernit at the Living the Romantic Comedy blogspot bellyached about the same thing several months back in one of his posts. I don't share the same gripe. I TRY to view each story as unique entity. But bad writing is bad writing. If the "rush to the airport" scene isn't handled right... a bad scene is a bad scene. I understand your chagrin to a point. BUT I think this kind of scene CAN be done well -- IF you have an open mind AND the writing is original enough to pull it off.

    - E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

    P.S. "Cupid's Helpers" was the rom-com I pitched to Lynda Obst's assistant, the beautiful Rachel Ababarell, at a Screenwriting Expo event a couple years ago which I wrote about in one of your posts last month. And since "Cupid's Helpers" I've penned two more rom-coms -- and neither of them has an airport scene.

  2. Ah yes . . .the airport scene. We do seem to see that a lot. It doesn't really work anymore. Especially with the way airports are today.

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  4. I felt the same way when I read The Proposal script, page 108 guess what happens, that's right, another race to the airport. I am pleased to know it was probably one of the frist things cut from the script. Talk about a lack of imagination.

    p.s. I see E.C. Henry's comments everywhere...

  5. Regarding the airport scene in THE PROPOSAL -- nope, they didn't cut it. The only wrinkle from the usual is that the protag is friends with the guy in the control tower and asks him to stop the plane. (Does he? See the movie.)

    I can't remember the movie now, but it ended with one of the couple on the wheelie stairs racing down the runway next to the plane shouting at the other in the plane. I remember thinking at the time, "They're *never* gonna top this." It hasn't stopped them.

  6. I never understood the urgency in getting the girl before she gets on that plane. If the dude wants her that bad, and misses the plane, can't he just buy a ticket to Paris?

    The scene assumes that the dude will just forget about her once the plane takes off.

    "Well, I missed it. Guess I'll have to find the love of my life here in the good ol' USA!"

  7. I don't know if anybody here has seen the short-lived animated series called Clone High, but there is an entire episode devoted to this cliche. The episode was called "Plane Crazy: Gate Expectations" and a similar scene plays out about six times over the course of one half-hour episode. If you haven't heard of the show, I highly recommend it.

  8. In response to Rabi... I completely agree! I always thought to myself, Why doesn't he just call her when she lands? Send her a friggin' text or email? I think this cliche worked back in the days when air travel was still fresh and hopping a plane meant you were gone for good - probably far away. And contact with that person would be difficult to manage if you didn't get to her on time... definitely not logical in today's tech-gloated world.

    I guess you could twist the cliche by having the scene play out in at a heli-port. :)

  9. Rabi & Ted - Totally agree with you.

    Patrick - that's hilarous! I just tried finding Clone High via Netflix and they don't carry it, but rest assured I'm going to try to seek out that episode. Sounds like it's right up my alley.

  10. Oh, and E.C. the way you present the scene makes it seem like it doesn't fall EXACTLY into the cliche, but if it's the climax I'd be careful. Airport scenes in climaxes are probably always going to trigger that particular feeling in an audience.

  11. Actually, they did cut out the script ending re The Proposal.

    You can read it right here, black and white:

    Page 114, the Handsome man whips out flex cuffs and marches the immigration officer off to jail, after tasering him on the plane. Handsome man asks the plane passengers if it's okay with them, he's ordering this plane back to Alaska.

    If you read The Proposal script and you watch the movie, there are two totally different endings. In the script the plane comes back to "Alaska" and lets Sandra off and she goes to apologize to the family.

    In the movie, the plane continues on with her on it. Ryan eventually flies to NYC to yell at her to 'shut up' and gets her to give their love a chance (rolls eyes).

    p.s. I thought that "Shut Up" was way too harsh. I would break up with anybody who said that to me.

  12. Apparently the whole thing is available on google video. If you like this episode, I would sneak over to amazon for the complete series. It's pretty incredible.

  13. By all means have the destination be France. Then let the person being chased actually get on the plane and go there, and by the time the other person catches up with them, it's too late because an employee of France Telecom leapt out a window and landed on their true love.

    Estoric knowledge, gallow humor, modern commentary, all in one.

    (Yes, suicide is a major issue for France Telecom right now.)

  14. Practically every rom-com ever made has a version of the chase to the airport:

    When Harry Met Sally
    You've Got Mail
    Annie Hall
    The Wedding Planner
    French Kiss
    Must Love Dogs
    Maid in Manhattan
    Sweet Home Alabama
    Two Weeks Notice
    Family Man

    it goes on and on. Coincidentally, nearly all of these films end with the couple kissing in the middle of adoring on-lookers, known to the characters or otherwise.

    A refreshingly different take on this was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.


  15. martinb: I'm pretty sure that was Liar Liar (the Jim Carrey film). And while I'm generally bored by romantic comedy cliches, I did find that scene pretty funny :)

  16. Friend's last episode;

    Woody Allen's Manhattan ends like this, somehow