Better People by Judith Grace Bassat | Script Revolution

Better People

Tired with technology, a high-powered Manhattan couple move to a tiny village in France to become better people but become obsessed when the old woman whose farmhouse they purchase refuses to die.



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Cathy and Jim Smith are a successful, attractive Manhattan power couple. But when Jim closes the elevator as a pregnant woman’s about to enter and they steal a taxi in the blistering heat from an old couple and the old man has a heart attack, they realize that they’ve become everything they once hated. Cathy wanted to be a saint and work with Mother Teresa and Jim was a Boy Scout and an altar boy. So they decide to sell everything, leave behind their jobs and their technology (throwing out their phones and computers) and move to a small village in France to become better people—where Cathy can paint and Jim can be a farmer. Their friend Julian advises them to invest all their money in a hot new company IQ to safeguard their savings. Their French doorman gives them the name of his cousin, Monsieur Paillard, an undertaker in the tiny village of St. Baptiste. They say goodbye to Cathy's 86-year-old grandfather Bill and her hip-hop brother Randy.

When they arrive in Provence, they mistakenly drive up to an old farmhouse, Le Paradis, where a feeble old woman sits out front. They find the idyllic St. Baptiste, move into its only hotel, and start looking for a house without success. Finally, the town notary, Monsieur Lepetit, tells them about a house that’s for sale, which turns out to be Le Paradis. They fall in love with it and Monsieur Le Petit tells them they can purchase it for an incredibly low price on the condition that they wait until its owner, Madame Olivier, dies in order to move in. They must also provide Madame Oliver with a monthly pension until that time. This is a deal in France, called a "viager." They refuse to do it on the grounds that they are good people who cannot sit around and wait for someone to die, but Monsieur Lepetit reminds them that Madame Olivier is 92 and on the verge of death. Cathy and Jim (who was in the insurance business) do the financial and actuarial calculations and decide that Madame Oliver could not have more than a few months and that they have just enough money to do it. Celebrating their good old American business sense, they sign the contract.

Cathy and Jim are thrilled by life in Provence (the poor hotel notwithstanding) and feel "reborn." However, as time passes, Madame Olivier not only does not die, but actually seems more lively and engaged. Gradually, Cathy and Jim decide to "help nature along.” They try several ways to get rid of her, such as taking her out for a dangerous drive and a boat ride on the lake, but Madame Olivier blithely continues. Meanwhile, they learn that the town of St. Baptiste has gone into decline since the historical church bells that celebrate the glory of God burned down. The town has been unable to rebuild them for lack of funds. When Cathy finds out she’s pregnant (though she's on the pill), the need to remove Madame Olivier increases, and they become more outrageous in their attempts.

They then learn that Cathy’s pregnant with twins and their efforts to get rid of Madame Olivier intensify. They give Viagra to Madame Olivier’s boyfriend, Cesar, with the hopes that his vigor will do her in, but instead Cesar dies in middle of lovemaking. The townspeople act strangely hinting about their motives. At the church service for Cesar, the priest starts speaking directly to them in English in an accusatory way as if he knows they were responsible for his death.

Then their friend Julian calls them on the phone in the local cafe (since they have no devices) to tell them that IQ has crashed because of financial shenanigans and they’ve lost all their savings. Freaked out by the news, Cathy and Jim attempt to scare Madame Olivier to death by pretending to be the ghost of Cesar. Madame Olivier faints at the sight of the ghost, but, when they take her to the hospital, she revives. Then Cathy faints, and the doctor informs her that she’s pregnant with triplets.

At their wit's end, they try to sell the contract to the house to different people in the town for an enormously reduced price, but no one will buy it. Meanwhile, Bill and Randy surprise them by showing up. Since there’s no place in the hotel, they stay with Madame Olivier. Bill and Randy tell Cathy and Jim what good people they’ve become since moving to France.

Cathy and Jim go to the local cemetery to regroup and there they see Madame Olivier placing flowers on several graves. They notice that five of the graves were Madame Olivier’s former husbands and two of them have a different name. They decide to push Madame Olivier into a grave ditch, but they can’t bring themselves to do it since she’s praying. They ask the sacristan who passes by to whom the two graves belong. He tells them they were the former owners of the contract to Le Paradis, both of whom died while waiting for Madame Olivier to expire. They then realize there’s a curse and that whomever comes near Madame Olivier dies.

This time they’re fully determined to do the "K" word come hell or high water. They go the Provencal festival dressed in costume like the locals with the intention of taking Madame Olivier (who’s afraid of heights) up in a hot air balloon and ending her life.

Meanwhile Bill and Madame Olivier have struck up a friendship even though she doesn’t speak English and she doesn’t speak French. Randy flirts with the hotel owner’s pretty daughter Amandine. Monsieur Paillard, the emotional undertaker, who becomes drunk, tells Cathy and Jim that everyone in St. Baptiste has been waiting for them to kill Madame Olivier, like “Americans in movies.” They’re shocked. When they ask why, he says it's because she hides all her money.

When the time comes to go up in the hot air balloon, Madame Olivier won’t go without Bill, so they agree to let him come. Cathy (9 months pregnant with an enormous belly) and Jim go up in the balloon with Bill and Madame Olivier. Monsieur Lepetit, the balloon’s pilot, is in on the plan. But when the balloon tips and Madame Olivier falls over the edge hanging by a thread, Jim rushes over and helps her back in, saving her life. The balloon tips over and everyone falls out. Bill makes an announcement that he and Madame Olivier plan to get married and go back to America so Cathy and Jim can have her house. Cathy responds, “Oh, we never thought of that.” Madame Olivier then announces that, in honor of her life being saved, she’s donating all her money to the church of St. Baptiste. Then Cathy gives birth to triplets right there in the basket of the balloon.

Cathy and Jim move into Le Paradis. The villagers restore the bells of St. Baptiste. Bill and Madame Olivier emerge from the church in their wedding finery. Cathy and Jim hold up their three just-baptized babies—one girl, named Fleurette (Madame Olivier’s first name)—and two boys, Bill and Cesar. And then the bells of St. Baptiste ring out, for the glory of God.

Submitted: July 26, 2021
Last Updated: August 15, 2021

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The Writer: Judith Grace Bassat

When I was called into the principal's office in third grade, I was sure that one of my parents had died, since I never had been anything but well-behaved. Instead, it was to tell me that my poem had just been chosen for a national poetry anthology. After that there was never a question of what I would do in this life. I went on to major in creative writing at Bennington and to write a book and play Goodbye My Fancy (not the 1950s one - book on Amazon - link to play on YouTube below - about the last months of Walt Whitman's life), which was "supposed" to have been produced on Broadway (both Charles Durning and Burgess Meredith wanted to do it), and later as a television pilot that was "... Go to bio

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