Based on a True Story
Rocky killed romance...
When Rocky invented the training montage, it created underdogs. It made “person who started training two months ago defeats person who’s worked their whole life for this” suddenly both plausible and, worse, desirable. Rocky is responsible for starting the domino rally that ends with the villain in every film being the one who’s objectively better at stuff. We need to stop this. I love romantic comedies, but I wanted to try to write one in which the obstacle was something more concrete. A rom com where we want them to up as a couple, not because it’s unlikely, but because they’re great together.
Based on a True Story is a love story, and it’s a working class love story, but it is not an underdog story. Because it’s not always the ones you least expect. Sometimes it’s the ones you see coming a mile off.
A romantic, but arrogant man tries to tell the biased, filtered and partly made up story of his affair with a woman who is engaged to someone else, without getting her in trouble.
After years of guilt over how quickly and cruelly he gets bored of the women he goes out with, Hedley has finally fallen in love, and wants to tell the world his story. Unfortunately doing so is problematic, as he doesn’t want her fiancé to find out. What we get is less a story of boy meets girl, and more a biography of a relationship, exploring a fun, heartbreaking and ultimately very human story about love, wanting what you can’t have and self-acceptance.
In many ways it’s a very straight story. At first Hedley pursues Anna, not knowing the truth. He then learns about her fiancé and knows he should stay away and move on, but has to fight against not only his own petty jealousies, but also Anna’s desire to see him again. Finally, they give in to their temptations and begin their affair, which quickly spirals out of control.
What separates it from other rom coms is that by embracing the unreliable narration that comes with telling a “true story”, we’re able to play with and subvert the genre while at the same time telling a deeply human tale about two messed up people finding love when only one of them was looking for it.
In focusing purely on their relationship and none of the trappings around it, the self-referential nature of the story becomes simply a frame which allows us to see that although morally dubious, what we are looking at is strangely beautiful.
Taking the imagination of (500) days of Summer and combining it with the madcap wit of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Based on a True Story is a complicated look at a simple story about a couple who really would be perfect for each other, if only it wasn’t such a terrible idea.