Thursday, May 9, 2013

Critical Review: Lives Start from scratch in Made from Scratch

 Note: I'm not currently sure this one will have a regular review available as I'm not familiar enough with screenplays to really have an opinion.  I was barely able to write this.

David Matthew Barnes used a tamale as a metaphor for the characters and their development in his screenplay Made From Scratch. The reference to tamales is also seen in the screenplays title: Made from Scratch, which is the same phrase that’s used in reference to the tamales.  The title is apt, especially when one looks at the various plotlines in the story.   Tameka, a 25-year-old mother with a nine-year-old son first appears in the screenplay as a poor single-parent barely making enough money to survive. She works two jobs and doesn’t have time to date Clyde.  By the end of the screenplay she has one higher-paying job, more confidence in herself and is seen on a date with Clyde.  Other plot lines are followed through the play of women finding their happiness, often by starting their lives over…from scratch.
In the screen play, the main character is Victoria, a successful business woman, struggling with her sexuality. She returns home for her step-father’s funeral. While at home she talks to her seventeen-year-old half-brother Martin:

VICTORIA. I’m sorry I didn’t call you at Christmas.
MARTIN. You missed Tamales. Made from Scratch.
VICTORIA.You made Tamales? With Mom?
MARTIN. No. She hates ‘em.  Me and Paulette made ‘em together on Christmas eve.
VICTORIA. How were they?
MARTIN. They could’ve been better, I guess. (32-3)

This conversation lets readers know Victoria and Martin like tamales, despite their mother’s dislike of the food. But it also shows that although Martin spent a lot of time making them, he was not entirely happy with the results.  This can be seen in his own life as well. Their mother, Constance, sees Martin as lazy and was more concerned of what the neighbors think than the fact her son downed a bottle of her tranquilizers on the same night the tamales were made. Paulette, Victoria’s life-long best friend, drove him to the hospital instead.
Like her brother, Victoria is also in the ‘it could have been better’ description provided about the tamales. Victoria is unhappy.  Some of this is because her mother made her miserable as a child, blaming her for the unhappy marriage and for anything that goes “wrong” in the family, like Martin being gay.  Victoria is also attracted to a co-worker, Danielle, but won’t admit her attraction to her.
            Later after hearing of Martin’s suicide attempt she stands up to her mother, and her issues. She then takes Martin and Paulette, who is unhappy with her life and marriage, home with her. The next day Victoria initiates a romantic relationship with When Victoria gets home she finds Danielle, Paulette, and Martin in her kitchen, the atmosphere blissful. She asks Danielle a question:

VICTORIA. What are you guys doing?
DANIELLE. They’re teaching me how to make tamales.
VICTORIA. From scratch?
MARTIN. Is there any other way?
VICTORIA. No.  There really isn’t.
DANIELLE. How do you know when the dough is ready?
PAULETTE. Vickie calls it the water test.
VICTORIA. The secret is in the masa. When you think the dough is ready, drop it in a glass of cold water.
DANIELLE. Sink or Swim?
PAULETTE. If it floats to the top, it’s ready to be made into something incredible. (105-6)

In this conversation the tamale is mentioned again. This time it’s to show what viewers/readers have already witnessed: When the tamale (person) is ready, it is made into something incredible.  Once Victoria faces her issues, she was ready, and she is working on making her life and the lives of other people incredible. She’s giving her brother a chance to thrive, her best friend a chance to experience freedom and giving herself a chance at happiness with Danielle.  She’s ready to take on the world.
The title, Made From Scratch, is a reference to an all-encompassing metaphor in David Mathew Barnes’ screenplay.  The metaphor uses a tamale to show the characters and their various development through various plots. A good metaphor can sometimes be what pulls multiple plot points of a story together and add a little more punch. David-Matthew Barnes is skilled at writing metaphors.

Barnes, David Matthew. Made from Scratch.  N.d. Screenplay.

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