You should do a blog post in defense of Diablo Cody. What seems to be the biggest complaint among her detractors is that her dialogue is not realistic and too stylized. That bothers me because there are few writers that actually seem to have a unique voice and when one does, they get jumped on.
I’m not opposed to stylized writing at all. But for many writers it’s a double-edged sword. They get discovered because they have a unique voice, but if that’s the only style they can write in they run the risk that the style goes out of style and they can’t adjust. How often have you seen this in rock bands? How are all the Disco groups doing these days?
At the moment Diablo Cody is very much in favor (despite my disappointment at YOUNG ADULT). She was nominated for a WGA Award the very day I panned her movie (proving again – what do I know?). I personally like her style. I loved JUNO. This was my review. And then I had some fun imaging the notes Diablo Cody would receive from a typical studio executive. You can find that here.
The big knock is that all of her characters sound alike and that’s true. Going in you have to know you’ll be watching a very stylized movie – the same way you would going into a Coen Brothers or Tim Burton film. Or a movie musical. You sacrifice realism, which can make the movie special and unique or kill it. You could get ROGER RABBIT or HOWARD THE DUCK.
All of David Mamet’s characters sound alike. Same with Harold Pinter’s. And Larry Gelbart’s. To me that's a good thing. If the writing is good.
I love Aaron Sorkin’s style, but he has to have the right subject matter. WEST WING was phenomenal. So was SOCIAL NETWORK. Those brainiac characters were right in his wheelhouse. But when the arena was behind-the-scenes at SNL, Tina Fey’s style was more on the mark than his.
Look, if TV and movie dialogue were true to real life no one would watch. Who wants to listen to endless prattle, incessant stammering, and a million “y’knows” and “likes”? I bet if someone really did a documentary on a paper products office, in order to put together one half hour that had as many funny things as the TV version they would need to shoot ten million hours of film. (I know that’s a little off topic. We’re talking about very stylized writers. But the point needs to be made that all dramatic writers need a little latitude.)
So in this age of network interference and homogenization, I say thank goodness for Diablo Cody, and Aaron Sorkin, and David Milch, and Amy Sherman, and every other truly distinctive writer except Tyler Perry.