Friday, January 17, 2014

Want versus Need

What your character wants to do versus what he/she needs in his/her life to be truly happy. The larger this gap, the more internal conflict your character will have to battle with. Traditionally, a character “changes” from pursuing his/her want to his/her need as he/she grows. 

In A Few Good Men, L.T. Kaffee is a military lawyer known for settling all his cases because he doesn’t want to risk his neck. Initially, when the case of the movie comes to his attention, he WANTS to settle it as usual and move on. However, he decides to stay with the case as he uncovers the conspiracy and realizes he NEEDS to do the right thing and get this case to trial.

In 40 Year Old Virgin, what Andy WANTS it to hide the fact that he’s a virgin from Trish. This causes him to act bizarrely and Trish suspects he’s a psycho, kicking him out. Only in the last moments of the film he realizes that he NEEDS to be honest and tell her the truth.

It should be noted that this progression from WANT to NEED is not necessarily a positive journey. Many movies feature dark character whose journeys from WANT to NEED defy traditional expectations.

In The Unforgiven William Munny WANTS to collect the bounty without turning into a monster. But, after the first two acts of the movie, he realizes he NEEDS to become a monster. Similarly, in L.A. Confidential, Exley WANTS to do everything by the book but, after the first two acts of the movie, realizes that he NEEDS to get his hands dirty and break the law if he’s ever going to make a difference.

A powerful juxtaposition occurs when a character gets what he/she wants but not what he/she needs.

In Up In The Air, all Ryan Bingham WANTS is to travel without strings and gain ten million frequent flyer miles. But, his affair with Alex Goran makes him realize he NEEDS love and family in his life. In a great scene, he receives the news that he has successfully accumulated ten million frequent flyers, just after Alex breaks his heart. He has gained what he WANTED but not what he NEEDED.

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