After a quick establishing shot, in case you forgot this movie takes place in San Francisco-
We encounter a scene where Lisa and Claudette are discussing Johnny’s birthday party. You can tell because Lisa has pen and paper on her lap, and because she is very helpfully saying exactly what she’s doing:
Lisa: I’m organizing a party for… Johnny’s birthday. (Yes, of course I’m enough of a dick where I’m going to leave in the pauses where the actors stumble over these very complex lines of dialogue.) Can you come?
Lisa playfully suggests her mom can bring somebody if she wants. Claudette says she can come, but probably won’t bring anybody. Then Claudette… tells a story about her brother Harold trying to take her house?
Claudette: Oh! That jerk, Harold! He wants me to give him a share of my house. That house belongs to me! He has no right! I’m not giving him a penny!
Um, okay? We… weren’t talking about that, Claudette. You didn’t even transition into that. You just suddenly changed the entire discussion. Even Lisa doesn’t understand why you’re bringing this up.
Claudette then asks something very close to a question the rather perplexed audience probably has right now:
Claudette: Who does he think he is?
Lisa: He’s your brother.
Oh. Well, that… clears things up? Wait, does it? Are we going to meet Claudette’s brother, Harold, now?
Claudette: He is always bugging me about my house. Fifteen years ago, we agreed that house belongs to me. Now the value of the house is going up and he’s seeing dollar signs. Everything goes wrong at once. Nobody wants to help me. And I’m dying!
Wait wait wait what? Now you’re also dying? That escalated quickly! You just told us about one thing and now there’s another very different thing? Does this have something to do with Harold and the house that we don’t know anything about?
Lisa helpfully tries to negate everything Claudette is saying, as though you can do that to redact lines of dialogue, I guess.
Lisa: You’re not dying, mom.
Claudette: I got the results of the test back. I definitely have breast cancer.
Well. Shit. Sounds like you are dying then. “Fuck you, Lisa! I am dying! Gotcha!”
Now, you might be reading this, thinking, “Matthew, there is no way it actually sounds this disjointed.” Well, see for yourself:
Now in addition to the “Where did that even come from?” dialogue, you also get to experience the acting that is somehow drier than just reading the lines of dialogue I transcribed on this blog. There’s some inflection, certainly. But for a high stakes tale out of absolutely nowhere about a house-stealing brother in a cancer-induced race against time? People are more on the edge of their seat five minutes into an episode of Jeopardy!
Lisa attempts to be reassuring, which would probably work better if the next line wasn’t in monotone:
Lisa: Don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine. They’re curing lots of people every day.
Claudette: I’m sure you’re right. Oh! I heard Edward is talking about me!
What the fuck, Claudette?! Weren’t you just in the middle of telling your daughter you have cancer? Who the fuck is Edward? Even Lisa has no idea what the fuck this Edward business is now.
Claudette: He is a hateful man! I’m so glad I divorced him.
So this isn’t going to have anything to do with your brother or your house or your cancer we literally all just learned about in the past fifty-five seconds of film? Want to know the best part? None of these subplots will ever come up again. Not one of them. Not once. Not a single mention of any of these issues in the entire rest of the film. To really emphasize this point, here is a list of all the things mentioned in this scene that will never come up again:
- Claudette’s house
- Claudette’s brother
- Claudette’s cancer
- Claudette’s ex-husband “talking about me”
So why even bring any of them up?
Lisa, who is somehow keeping up with all of this, tries to reassure her that all of these things – seriously, what else could this woman be having a problem with? – will be okay, speaking calmly and stoically:
Lisa: Don’t worry about it. You just concentrate on getting well.
Claudette: Well, at least you have a good man.
Lisa: YOU’RE WRONG.
(Dramatic orchestrated music)
Wait, the man whose birthday party you were happily planning before the minute-o’-subplots? Suddenly he’s the worst?
Lisa: Mom, he’s not what you think he is. He didn’t get his promotion. And he got drunk last night. And he hit me.
Claudette immediately turns her attention to the important part of Lisa’s revelation.
Claudette: Johnny doesn’t drink!
Lisa, who is somehow not concerned that her mother doesn’t care that Johnny has allegedly hit her, asserts that this is all true and that she doesn’t love him anymore. Claudette, once again focusing on the important things, immediately offers this counterpoint:
Claudette: Johnny is your financial security!
Lisa dismisses her mother’s Victorian-era relationship advice and asks to just talk about it later,
Lisa: I just got done talking to a client and I have to get ready to meet him.
Wait, you just got done talking to a client? Claudette’s been here this whole time. When did this happen? Did more things happen during the minute-o’-subplots? Claudette somehow doesn’t see through Lisa’s ruse and agrees to talk about this serious matter of physical abuse later, saying goodbye with a playful touch on the nose.