"That's Reality" - On Hollywood Endings

Most people seem to sniff derisively at the idea of a "Hollywood Ending," but let's face it---most of the sniffers must be lying. Because the only reason Hollywood Endings get shoved down the throats of movie and fiction writers is because people want them. Or I guess at the very least have been trained to expect them, and Meeting Expectations = Satisfaction, right?

But isn't that boring? Wouldn't the happy endings be even more satisfying if we didn't know to automatically expect them 95% of the time? And wouldn't we learn to appreciate different kinds of endings if more of them made it to the marketplace? Or are tied-in-a-bow happy Hollywood Endings simply what people want and there's no changing it, so if you endeavor to write in certain genres, you've simply got no choice other than to give the majority of people what they want?

My perspective on this seems to have changed in the two decades since I first saw The Player. Back then, when I saw the scene I've linked to the photo below, I was 100% with Bonnie in her insistence that the writer was a sellout. But now I don't know, I think he makes a valid point when he says, "Everybody hated it. We re-shot it, now everybody loves it. That's reality."

The setup: Throughout The Player, a screenwriter (the gum chewer) has insisted that his movie will have no movie stars in it (yes, that's Julia Roberts at the height of her popularity) and that the evidence to clear the main character, who's been falsely accused and faces the death sentence, will only be discovered after she's been executed..."because that's reality." 

Click image to see how the gum chewer's vision played out.

How do you feel about Hollywood Endings?
Like 'em? Bored with 'em? What?

P.S. I've already packed three items in my time capsule from the future. How about you? 


Bored with the. ET is a good example, it is a good film up to the point where he comes back to life. After that it is ridiculously bad. It teaches kids that treating other creatures badly is the wrong thing to do but don't worry because if they die due to our actions then they will come back to life. Also, if he could make that bike fly then why didn't he fly to get away from the people chasing him at the beginnig?
Anne Gallagher said…
Hollywood's business is all about making money. Bottom line. The people want a happy ending, good will always triumph over evil, and mostly, sex sells.

People who live ordinary lives want to be diverted from that and paying $10- for two hours of entertainment they don't want to be reminded of their own boring, humdrum lives.

The stories without happy endings may be critically acclaimed, but most don't make money.
Michael Di Gesu said…
I think it's a catch 22....

Yes, we do need happy endings for the ESCAPE... it's not ALWAYS about the money. Like Anne said, most people lead very boring or ordinary lives, so they look for that happy ending because they many never get theirs.

On the flip side MISERY doe LOVE company. A realistic ending of a broken life or relationship is something humans deal with on a daily basis. There is almost comfort in knowing that we are not going through these hardships alone.

And for both of these reasons I like diversity in my reading, and movie going AS well as in my writing. Two books, and a novella in progress .... all three VERY DIFFERENT in their endings and POV...
Mark Means said…
Honestly, I absolutely hate Hollywood.

While they're the ones who built the film industry, they've spent the past 10 years, or so, tearing it down just the same.

That said, though, you have a good point about them giving people what they want...or what they've been trained to want.

Personally, I like the unexpected ending. I hate being able to guess (correctly) how something is going to end.
~Charity~ said…
Movies do become rather dull when we know how they are going to end. I don't always need a happy ending either; I just need the ending to make sense. More diversity, I think, would be a good thing.
Luanne G. Smith said…
Depends on the movie/story for me. If it's a big blockbuster movie like The Avengers I want the happy ending where the heroes prevail and the bad guys get their butts kicked. If it's more of a literary type story, like No Country For Old Men, then an ambiguous "real life" ending that makes me think is more satisfying.

Mostly I go for the happy ending though. Stories are escapism for me, so I get frustrated when the good guys lose outside of real life. :)
LD Masterson said…
I used to enjoy reading John D. MacDonald because his ending were not predictable. Sometimes the hero racing to save the girl would get there in time, sometimes he wouldn't. But in truth, I never enjoyed the "reality" endings. I want the happy.
Johanna Garth said…
I think it's all mood driven for me (umm, like 90% of my life)! Sometimes I want that happy Hollywood ending and sometimes I want reality.
Suze said…
Years ago at a writers' conference, I first heard the term, 'Surprising Inevitability,' and it's still the best concept I've come across when wrangling with this age-old, persistent conundrum. I think the most satisfying endings take us where we expect in a way, and hopefully in many ways, that we do not.
I guess it depends on why you're watching movies. Most of the time, I watch to escape. If I'm escaping to another world for two hours, I want a happy or at least satisfying ending.
Unknown said…
In a book we don't have the option to 're-shoot' but if my endings don't satisfy, chances are I won't be selling a second book.

I agree with Suze, the ending should take us where we want to gol
Janie Junebug said…
I remember The Player. I love Hollywood endings. What would Pretty Woman be if she'd gone back to being a hooker after what's his name left? Oh, yeah, he'd given her a wad of cash, but how long would it have lasted? She would have been back on the streets if he hadn't saved her, and don't give me that crap about she saved him right back. So, I guess my point is that the Hollywood ending is what made it good. I think I'll visit your book launch page now.

Elliot Grace said…
Nicki! My fellow 80's junkie! It's been too long, for crying out loud!

Anyway...Hollywood endings. Honestly, it's the perfect ingredient for laying siege to what may have been a wonderful novel, until a producer clamped onto it, his fangs bared ;)

Great to hear from ya!

Tara Tyler said…
i like happy endings, i dont like cliches, thats all
Livia Peterson said…
I love happy endings, but as I keep watching tons of movies, the endings are always the same! I love endings that leave you wanting more.

Films and stories are escape for me. I like to enjoy them without knowing the ending, but that doesn't usually happen - I know it halfway through but loving it anyway. And cliches are the worst.
Carol Kilgore said…
For me the most important part for movies and books is if the ending is satisfying. Sometimes for it to be satisfying, it doesn't end happily. Two that I think fall into this category are The Departed and Burn After Reading.

But overall, I'm a huge fan of the happy ending :)
Jennifer Lane said…
Great post, Nicki! I must say I love Hollywood endings. (I was just complaining about how Mockingjay ended on Facebook moments ago!) But I don't like everything neatly resolved--I still like some messiness since that seems like reality. I just want to feel a sense of hope and satisfaction at the end (after the characters have been tortured beyond belief of course).
DL Hammons said…
I'll take a Hollywood ending any day. Just my personal preference. I prefer upbeat endings. :)
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