Adapt This! Pulp's 'Common People'

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There’s nothing new under the sun — but somehow, these awesome properties have never been adapted for screens big or small. Psst, Hollywood: Let’s change that.

It’s the plot of Titanic. And The Notebook. And Aladdin. Also, Good Will HuntingPirates of the Caribbean, Wild at Heart, Say Anything, A Knight’s Tale, Atonement, The Great Gatsby, The Princess Bride and thousands of other stories that we’ve seen and read time and time again.

She’s rich (and beautiful). He’s poor (and beautiful). And he worships the privileged ground she walks on. Obviously they must end up together.You’d think that all love stories were really about class.

Because what’s more appealing than a tale of a scrappy, devilishly handsome fellow from the wrong side of the tracks who lusts after the privileged, sheltered beauty raised with silver spoons and gold forks and strands of pearls and eventually wins her pretty little heart?  No, not a reverse gender take. We’ve seen that a million times too. (Hi, Love Story, Pretty Woman, Maid in Manhattan, etc.)

Maybe what we need is a devilishly handsome fellow from the wrong side of the tracks who realizes that the privileged, sheltered beauty raised with silver spoons and gold forks and strands of pearls was full of sh-t? That’s why we should adapt Pulp’s “Common People.” Here’s my modest proposal.

For the uninitiated, “Common People” is a five minute and 52 second single off of Pulp’s 1995 album Different Class. The britpop anthem tells the story of an English guy who meets an educated girl from Greece in a bar one night near Saint Martins College. She immediately reveals that she’s rich — or that her dad is — offers to buy the guy a drink and then confesses that she really just wants to live like common people. She also says she’s interested in sleeping with common people, just to sweeten the deal.

So, the guy abides. He takes her to a supermarket and tells her to pretend that she’s poor. She laughs, and he begins to see through the facade. The beautiful, rich girl just wants a tour through the world of the peasants, but as soon as she sees her first cockroach she’s going to call her dad and he’ll save her from the horrors of poverty. She can put on as much of a charade as she’d like, but she’ll never know exactly what it is to really and truly live like the rest of us because the safety net is always there.

Not only is the guy not enchanted by her little adventure into glamorous, quaint poverty — he resents her for it and declares that she is in fact not welcome in his world. “Cause everybody hates a tourist, especially one who thinks it’s all such a laugh,” Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker sneers near the end of song. The reverse classicism is vicious and incredible. How awesome would it have been had the people in steerage thrown Rose out of their below deck dance party?

It’s a slight plot, sure. But limited stories often breed the most interesting films given the right lyrical director and cast. It gives the movie room to breathe instead of trying to cram in (or nix) precious details from a 600 page novel. It’s also sort of true. Jarvis did meet a beautiful, wealthy art student at Saint Martins in the late 80s who wanted to live like common people. But that’s where the similarities between the song and the reality stop. He wanted to sleep with her. She wasn’t interested. Maybe “Common People” was actually his revenge anthem against some snob who rejected him. Regardless of the truth, the tale presented in the song became the more interesting story.

Either Sarah Polley or Jeff Nichols could write and direct. Michael Fassbender would star as the guy (because he’s got to be a little older, and have a careless, disheveled edge to him), and a wide-eyed, porcelain-skinned brunette like Emilia Clarke or Felicity Jones as the girl. I’m having a hard time finding actresses from Greece, so, for the purposes of this adaptation, why not make her a posh upper class Brit? The movie would cost nothing ($1.5 million) and make next to nothing (probably in the $12 million range). Basically, it’s harmless. It’s not going to be a franchise, it’s not going to be a studio-crushing flop, but it could be a really great, interesting movie.

Also, “Common People” has one of the lamest music videos ever and it deserves a better treatment. It’s a cheesy, sanitized, movie trailer confection that diminishes the impact of the epic song and actually manages to make it boring. Don’t believe me?

Ugh, there’s even a synchronized dance. I blame 1996.

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