Hollywood screenwriters hold court in this feature-length talking-heads session about their often-unappreciated profession. The film contains a number of valuable anecdotes—everyone from The Bucket List’s Justin Zackham to Butch and Sundance paterfamilias William Goldman chimes in—yet it still comes off as a clunky first draft.
Except for a few amusingly illustrative film clips (props for the inclusion of In a Lonely Place), Tales is all medium-shot chatter clumped together under cutesy chapter heads and scored to chirpily repetitive Muzak. It’s a deathly dull approach that makes for a tough sit; the film feels more like a research archive than a movie, and—no surprise—an expanded tie-in tome is now in stores.
Nonetheless, the best of the recollections manage to rise above the humdrum packaging: Goldman delivers sagely cynical pronouncements from what appears to be a cluttered throne room, while Bruce Joel Rubin speaks movingly about an encounter with a terminal cancer patient that helped him come to terms with his lambasted My Life. But it’s Guinevere Turner who steals the show, with memories of working on the Uwe Boll hacksterpiece BloodRayne. She traces a hilarious line from her spotty first draft (which Boll approved!) to the awesomely disastrous premiere. In such instances, Tales’ aesthetic deficiencies hardly matter, since we’re listening to a captivating raconteur.