A Few Good Men was released on December 11, 1992. I was 12 years old at the time, smack dab in the middle of seventh grade, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that the movie changed my life.
The moment my mom and I got back from the theater that night, I began regaling my dad with a beat-by-beat synopsis of the film. This continued for the next seven days, until I dragged him to the theater to see it for himself (but mostly so I could see it a second time). A few weeks later, I hijacked a sleepover I had planned with my friend Ian and talked him into seeing the movie instead of our planned visit to the arcade. To this day, it’s still the movie I’ve seen the most times in the theater (and, of course, there were countless VHS and DVD and cable TV viewings still to come).
That an adolescent boy flocked to the theater multiple times to consume the same movie isn’t news; Hollywood has tailored its entire business model around the phenomenon. But it’s usually for movies like Star Wars, or Twilight, or Harry Potter. Not a military courtroom drama about a Lieutenant Junior Grade with nine months’ experience and a track record for plea bargaining who gets assigned a murder case. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t your typical 12 year old.
Later that same school year, I was tasked with writing a research paper about my desired career path. I, of course, chose lawyer, but that’s only because I didn’t know what a screenwriter was at the time. I wasn’t interested in the law any more than I was interested in enlisting in the Marine Corps. What I wanted was to talk like an Aaron Sorkin character when I grew up.
This revelation came much later when I began wearing out my VHS copy of the film. The words “Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, Based on His Play” (which flashed across the screen near the end of the opening credits) finally landed, and I had a new hero to place alongside Joe Montana, Magic Johnson, and Steve Urkel (trust me, it made sense at the time).
Years later, I was listening to an interview with Sorkin in which he talked about what had initially got him interested in the theater. At the age of nine, his parents had taken him to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? And though he couldn’t understand much of the story, he fell in love with the sound of dialogue. “It sounded like music to me…and I wanted to imitate that sound.”
Because I had a few years on Sorkin when I first saw A Few Good Men, I was able to understand the plot just fine. But the thing that stuck with me about the experience was the same: it was all about the words.
I couldn’t have realized it at the time, but those words set me down a path. And while at first that path was paved with imitation, eventually, it led to me finding my own voice — the one that you’re reading right now. And while I’m sure Mr. Sorkin might prefer it if I just said thank you and went on my way, it hardly seems enough. So instead, I’m going to break down his glorious debut film a few (good) minutes at a time.
I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I want, dear reader, is for you to sit there in your f*gg*ty white pajamas, and with your mouth full of cereal, extend me some fucking courtesy!
(Or, you know, enjoy the posts. Either way…)