A shocking Christmas miracle. An IMPRESSIVE script review before the end of 2022!

Genre: Drama/Comedy
Premise: A unique young woman enters a hobbyhorse dance competition that she’s way too old for while dealing with her mother’s cancer struggle.
About: Lauren Meyering has made a few short films. This script finished with 7 votes on the 2020 Black List. Script link is at the bottom of the review if you want to read the script first.
Writer: Lauren Meyering (story by Mackenzie Breeden & Rachael Moton)
Details: 103 pages

No idea who would play this role so I’m going to put Haley Lu Richardson down for now!

I’ve seen plenty of gender-swapping in the last five years.

I’ve seen John Wick get gender-swapped, Lethal Weapon get gender-swapped, I’ve seen Thor and Iron Man get gender-swapped, I saw All The President’s Men just get gender-swapped.

But never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that they would gender-swap Napoleon Dynamite. That came out of left field, did a detour in the dugout, quietly hid inside the mascot’s costume, before stripping down and singing God Bless America on the pitching mound.

We are watching something truly unique here.

And I’m about to find out if it’s any good.

Margarita, 26, is different. She’s got giant red unruly hair. She loves horses way too much. And she doesn’t have a filter. She says whatever she wants whenever she wants. Because she’s also socially unaware, she tends to make people uncomfortable. Which is why she doesn’t have a job and lives with her mom.

The problem is her mother, Sandy, has cancer. And Sandy’s worried that if she leaves this great green earth anytime soon, Margarita is not going to know how to take care of herself. So she encourages Margarita to get a job, which she surprisingly does (at a Halloween store).

Beaming from the confidence her newfound employment brings, Margarita joins a dance troupe of prepubescent girls who are currently working on a hobbyhorse dance. Yes, that means dancing with one of those stick horse things, something we all used to have as children. Neeeeeiiiighhhh!

When the dance coach announces a hobbyhorse competition at the local high school at the end of the month, Margarita throws everything she’s got into her routine. What she doesn’t know (major spoiler) is that her mom has just been told that the cancer is spreading. As Sandy builds up the courage to tell her daughter the grim news, Margarita readies herself for her big shining moment.

I was just talking to a professional writer and he taught me a new term I was unaware of: Protagonitis. Protagonitis is the act of every character in your movie being interesting EXCEPT YOUR PROTAGONIST. This happens because protagonists need to ground the film. Their job is to stabilize the movie so that all the other characters can fly. Unfortunately, this often leads to your protagonist being the weakest character in the story.

I can confidently say that this is NOT the case with Horsegirl.

Horsegirl owns this script. She’s easily one of the best written characters of the year. She could even be one of the best written characters I’ve come across. There may be some recency bias in that assessment but read this script and try not to remember this character for the rest of your life.

I mean check out this introduction.

I talk so much about writing strong memorable introductions for heroes yet writers still struggle with it. Most introductions are either bland or boring. If that’s a common problem for you, it might not be that you can’t come up with a good introduction. It might just be that your character is weak. Write a unique character and you’ll find it easier to write a unique introduction.

How awesome is this character? When she rides her bike home from the gym, she sings songs ABOUT HERSELF! Not gonna lie. I’m getting some E.C. vibes here. I could totally imagine E.C. writing a song about himself.

And when she gets home, we get this gem: “She’s fresh out of the shower, hair wet, and in a horse night gown. She interpretive dances as she watches the TV. Her interpretive dancing includes galloping, contemporary, hip-hop, and ninja movements.”

There were so many moments in this script like this that would bring a smile to my face. Who integrates ninja movements into their self-dance sessions, lol???

Margarita is what I call in my upcoming dialogue book, the “highly opinionated socially unaware” character. These characters are amazing for comedies. If you nail them, they can carry the entire script without you needing to do much at all on the plot side. We just want to follow and listen to this weird character, regardless of what she does.

I was enjoying Margarita so much that I was bummed out about the cancer storyline. It’s indie to the indieth degree. Why can’t she just be a normal mother? Not a cancer mother? It’s not like there isn’t enough for her to deal with already. She has to take care of a girl who will never grow up. There’s a scene in the middle of the script where Sandy has to take Margarita to the doctor and in order to avoid a shot, Margarita hides underneath the table and refuses to come out. Sandy just stares at her, embarrassed, with no idea what to do.

That’s a lot of stress right there. Do we really ALSO need a cancer story?


And then Sandy gets the call from her doctor that the chemo isn’t working. That she must accept what’s coming. And Sandy is terrified to tell Margarita. Margarita is a special girl as it is. She has no idea how to even broach the subject with her.

That’s when I realized the genius of the cancer storyline. The best screenplays take your emotions on a roller coaster ride. They don’t hit one monotonous emotional beat over and over again. They take you up high then pull you down low then shoot you right back up high again. What this strategy does is it loosens up your emotional state. You become more susceptible to the heartbeat of the story because all of your defenses are down.

And there was something particularly effective about juxtaposing the wild Napoleon Dynamite-esque adventures of Margarita against something as tragic as cancer. It really hit me hard in a way that I wasn’t expecting at all.

I’ll tell you, also, when this script went from a “double-worth-the-read” to the elusive “impressive” for me. Major Spoiler here, by the way. They kill off the mom BEFORE the final hobbyhorse competition. If that doesn’t happen and the mom, instead, attends the hobbyhorse competition? And THEN dies? This is a b.s. Hollywood script. It’s manipulative. It’s desperate for your tears. For those reasons, it wouldn’t have worked. The mom dying the night before, Margarita still going to the composition, and competing without her mom watching her – that turbo-charged the emotion in the scene, multiplying it a hundred-fold. It was 1000% the perfect creative choice.

I’m still a bit shocked by this reading experience. The script lures you in with this funny weird character. But then it takes advantage of that and brings you into a much more complex story that’s not easy to get through at times, yet is so rewarding when it’s all said and done.

This is not going to be for everyone. But for those of you writing character pieces or anything that has an intense emotional through-line, you need to memorize every page of this script. This is how you get it done. Excellent work by the writer. If anybody knows Lauren Meyering, e-mail me at carsonreeves1@gmail.com. I would love to interview her and learn about her process for creating characters.

P.S. Who in the world would play this character? Any ideas???

Script Link: Horsegirl

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: This script reminded me of the value of juxtaposing emotional extremes. Ping-ponging between ‘insanely wild’ and ‘incredibly deep’ loosen ups your emotional state and makes you more vulnerable to the emotional beats in the story. I am not afraid to admit that I was sniffling up a storm during that final dance.