Cliches in Film and Writing

Recently I watched “The little things” which is a film by John Lee Hancock that stars Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto. Although the film has had some conflicting reviews I enjoyed most of it and appreciated the unique ending. The plot of this film seems very generic and similar to many other crime mystery fiction films out there which seems to be the problem for a lot of people that have seen and reviewed the movie and I agree. This however got me thinking about generic “cliche” plots not only in film but in fiction writing as well. Most people complain and would say that they don’t enjoy films or books that have a similar plot or similar characters that have been used over and over again in other content. I can agree to some extent however I believe if done right, fiction can still be enjoyable with these common tropes. The film “The Little Things” has that classic trope of the big city cop turned small-town cop that goes back to the city to help on a case and ends up getting hooked on that case with a relatively new detective from the city. Yes, this is a common plot used in these types of movies and writing but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Sometimes in fiction, good characters and chemistry between those characters can be what makes the story. In the case of this film, I found the relationship between the two protagonists very fun and likable. With fiction the possibilities are endless so if a common cliche is being used for the main plot, these character relationships are going to be very important for making the story interesting and not cookie cutter. These characters need to have the ability to keep the readers invested so that the audience cares about them and what happens to them. It’s one of the many ways to keep the audience engaged in the reading. Besides characters and their relationships, another element important to have in these commonly used plots is some form of mystery. These plots are used commonly so a reader may have a sense of what’s going to happen next. I believe that in these plots there should be something, even if it’s a very minor change, that throws readers off. If you lead the readers to a direction that is obvious in a story that is commonly used, there is nothing that separates this specific story from the rest. There needs to be a plot element that throws the audience off or at least teases that the story can go in another direction. This does not have to be something crazy or out of place, it can be very subtle. The film “The Little Things” gave me this feeling. As the plot moved forward, I wasn’t able to figure out what was going to happen next even though the story felt very familiar. I was not on the edge of my seat or anything like that but my curiosity was peaked when it came to the direction that the characters were going in. And this brings me to my next point which is the ending. Again same as the element of mystery, I don’t think that these cliche stories need to have a very drastic, dramatic, and jaw-dropping ending to be compelling and different. There is beauty in subtlety when it comes to fiction in my opinion, an ending that feels right or one that doesn’t even feel right that clicks in your head can be exhilarating. Without spoilers “The Little Things” has a very subtle compelling ending that I don’t think many people could have predicted. I actually really liked the ending of this film despite what many critics say. I thought that it flipped the title of the film on its head and reversed the way that the audience was thinking for most of the film. In commonly used plots like the one in this film, an ending like this can be very beneficial in fiction writing as well. Once again I don’t think that all cliche plots in film or writing are a bad thing, sometimes a story being cliche is what makes it entertaining. In the case where a writer or director wants to do something a little different, I don’t think there is any wrong with trying new things creatively which is what I think John Lee Hancock was doing with this film. Readers appreciate familiarity with a small hint of something different.

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