Free State of Jones: An Abridged Script

FADE IN:

EXT. CIVIL WAR BATTLEFIELD – SOMEWHERE IN THE SOUTH

CONFEDERATE MEDIC MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY is simultaneously playing Russian roulette with his life and Civil War Era: The Suckiest Ever Jeopardy.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
Colonel, I’ll take ‘Reasons Why I Should Desert” for $100.

(pauses)
What is “Because we’re outmatched to the point where it’s almost comical?”

LEADER OF MATTHEW’S REGIMENT
Cor-rect!

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
(hurdles corpse, keeps marching)
I’ll take $200 – the Daily Double. What is “Because JACOB LOFLAND has just died in my arms after being conscripted though he appears to have hit puberty only recently?”

LEADER OF MATTHEW’S REGIMENT
Cor-rect!

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
(dodges a stray bullet)
I seem to be on a roll here. What is “Because I could avoid all this misery if I were rich, lacked a conscience and owned at least 20 slaves?”

LEADER OF MATTHEW’S REGIMENT
Cor-rect!

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
And the final question? What is “Because I have the potential to be an awesome guerilla leader of disenfranchised blacks and whites alike?”

LEADER OF MATTHEW’S REGIMENT
Cor-rect! Godspeed, my son.

MATTHEW goes home to his wife, KERI RUSSELL.

INT. FARM HOUSE

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
Honey, I’m home. I’ve decided that this is a pointless war, which exploits the poor and only benefits the rich.

KERI RUSSELL
That’s nice, dear. Did you know our son is seriously ill, our farm has been ransacked in the name of “taxation,” so we don’t have any money to pay doctors, who are all conscripted anyway?

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
Which category is this?

KERI RUSSELL
It’s “Why Rich Confederates Are Swamp Scum In Case Anyone Still Has Doubts.” Luckily, our neighbor is sending over GUGU MBATHA-RAW to see if she can help.

GUGU saves their son’s life, making him the first person in the movie to recover from a life-threatening setback.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
I wish I could offer you some token of thanks, but it appears we have nothing left.

GUGU MBATHA-RAW
I noticed. Don’t worry about it.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
(yanks gold filling from tooth)
This is the only valuable thing that hasn’t been taken, so it’s yours.

GUGU MBATHA-RAW
Thanks! Oh, and if you’re ever marooned in a swamp with a life-threatening wound, be sure to look me up.

SUDDENLY the ACTION FAST FORWARDS EIGHTY YEARS to a MISSISSIPPI COURTROOM giving the AUDIENCE who thought this took place solely in the Civil War Era major whiplash.

LAWYER
Your Honor, I’m going to prove that BRIAN LEE FRANKLIN, a direct descendant of MATTHEW, is biracial and married to a white woman, which technically is against the law here because we’re all a bunch of interchangeable bigots. By the way, isn’t that this subplot one of the most awkwardly shanghaied-in subplots in MOVIE HISTORY? However, it’s necessary because without it, the audience might think that RACISM ended after the CIVIL WAR.

JUDGE
I’ll allow it.

AUDIENCE
Wait, who thinks that?

BACK IN THE CIVIL WAR ERA

EXT. OUTSIDE A FARM HOUSE

MATTHEW meets with a WIDOW with three small children, whose farm has been half-ransacked by rich Confederate scum, who are planning to come back and plunder the rest.

WIDOW
We’re going to starve to death if they do that. Especially, the little ones. And then they’ll probably just repossess the place, after urinating on our graves.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
No wait, I have a plan. We’ll arm everyone, including the kids, and rig up rifles in the barn so that it looks like they’re being aimed by actual people, presumably ones that aren’t under ten.

WIDOW
You’ve got to be kidding me. Besides won’t they just keep coming back until they find a time when we’re asleep or something?

(pauses)
OK, kids, it’s never too early to learn to shoot.

Matthew’s plan works! However, because he is a deserter and has now openly defied the rich Confederate scum, they send dogs after him, which he narrowly escapes by strangling the dog that is mauling his leg and taking refuge in a swamp, where he meets runaway slaves, including MAHERSHALA ALI.

EXT. DESOLATE SWAMPLAND

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
Boy, this movie has a high body count, and we’re barely a half hour in. Well, since Keri has gotten disgusted and left me, what should I do now?

MAHERSHALA ALI
You can stay here, if you want. I’ll get GUGU, and she can put something on that leg, so you don’t lose it. As soon as she can escape from the sexual harassment of the prick she has to work for.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
Wow, is there no limit to these people’s inhumanity? I bet they set puppies on fire for fun, too.

MAHERSHALA ALI
Historical accuracy, remember?

GUGU, as well as random other refuges looking for a place to stay end up camping out in the swamp.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
So, Mahershala, would you like me to remove that awfully literal symbol of your oppression from around your neck?

MAHERSHALA ALI
Sure, but you know, the moment you try, the bad guys will come running. I mean, like literally, they will know exactly what’s going on and all be able to assemble in less than ten minutes flat, so we’d better come up with a defense plan.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
OK, then we’ll just arm up and kill them.

This works, and eventually, Matthew shares his thoughts on their situation.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
We’re all created equal in the eyes of God. No man should have the right to own another, regardless of skin color.

MAHERSHALA ALI
I’ve had similar notions, as I didn’t actually end up here of my own volition.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
Crops belong to whoever plants them – screw this faux-taxation crap.

MAHERSHALA ALI
Yes, I’m with you on that one, too.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
We’re all the same in the eyes of the rich white Confederate scum! Absolutely not a bit of difference at all as far as they’re concerned.

MAHERSHALA ALI
Uh, I wouldn’t go quite that far, considering you can own property and vote, two things I can only dream about, but your other ideas sound good.

Thus they form the FREE STATE OF JONES.

INT. CONFEDERATE HEADQUARTERS

YET ANOTHER ANTAGONIST
Colonel, it appears that a bunch of runaway slaves and disgruntled poor whites have taken refuge in a swamp, and led by Matthew, they’re going to declare their own state. One where there’s no racism and crop ransacking.

LEADER
And we should worry about this, because?

YET ANOTHER ANTAGONIST
We have cause to believe that they’re armed and dangerous. When you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.

LEADER
Well, tell them that if they come out, we won’t penalize them.

YET ANOTHER ANTAGONIST
(falls over double laughing)
Should we offer them cookies and milk, too as a reward?

LEADER
I’m serious. Since we’ve behaved like upstanding, honorable folk so far, why wouldn’t they believe us?

But several do, and they wind up hung!

EXT. FUNERAL PROCESSION

Black-clad mourners file past in procession carrying the coffins of the recently murdered men, while beady-eyed, twirly mustachioed Confederates watch nearby. Suddenly, everyone whips out a gun and starts SHOOTING at the Confederate scum, including the women, and that is what happens when you try to cross the residents of the FREE STATE OF JONES, a place where both genders have the right to bear arms, among other things.

EXT. FARM HOUSE

MATTHEW is doing farm stuff, when out of nowhere appears KERI and his son again.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
Hi. Long time, no see.

KERI RUSSELL
Matthew, being a woman with a young son on her own in the Civil War Era doesn’t leave me with a great deal of alternate options, so here we are.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
Er, well, the thing is I kind of got married again.

KERI RUSSELL
That’s nice. Have as many wives as you like, just give us a place to live.

He does.

INT. FARM HOUSE

GUGU MBATHA-RAW
Matthew, I’m okay with this bigamy deal, but the future for our biracial son will be brighter elsewhere. Might we consider moving?

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
We have a son? When did we find time to procreate with all the fighting for equal rights?

GUGU MBATHA-RAW
Your real life counterpart actually had nine with mine, but here it’s only one. What do you say?

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
This swampland has really grown on me – figuratively, that is. But do let me write our son’s name in the Bible.

GUGU MBATHA-RAW
At least, that will advance the other plotline, even if it does squat for me.

FAST FORWARD EIGHTY YEARS LATER: BACK IN THE MISSISSIPPI COURTROOM

LAWYER
Your Honor, I would like to show you this Bible.

JUSTICE
I’ll allow it.

LAWYER
Your Honor, this is the Bible that will prove Brian is a direct descendant of Matthew and Gugu. Or of Matthew and Keri. Or – seriously, is anyone in the audience really following this subplot? Anyway, I’ve changed my mind, and would like to testify that this SUBPLOT is superfluous because rest of the movie takes place after the CIVIL WAR and certainly does a bang-up job of showing that racism still exists. Also, we learn absolutely nothing about this character, except that he’s related to Matthew and so can’t feel much emotional connection.

JUDGE
(bangs gavel)
I’ll allow it.

AUDIENCE
(rubbing necks)
Glad this is finally settled.

BACK IN THE PAST AGAIN – POST CIVIL WAR

INT. VOTING PLACE

Because slavery has allegedly ended, the FREE STATE OF JONES’ citizens decide to exercise their civil RIGHTS and vote. Although no one points out that this extends only to the men, and therefore could be still seen as a PRIVILEGE. Thus Matthew and the others march into the polling building, which is full of yet more jerkwad Southerners.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
My men and I would like our Republican ballots, please.

YET ANOTHER JERKWAD SOUTHERNER
I’m afraid we ran out of toilet paper in the outhouse and had to improvise, so you may have to wait awhile. Or you could just guess the number I’m thinking of from one to one billion, and then you can have them.

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
I’m getting really tired of this. Perhaps you’d like to engage in a shootout, or should we just arm wrestle for them?

YET ANOTHER JERKWAD SOUTHERNER
Hey, this is historically accurate. Also the part where we rig the election. Oh okay, you can vote. Just don’t let the hanging chad hit you on the way out.

The REPUBLICANS lose. but their spirit remains undaunted. Still, bad things keep on happening and happening, including the murder and lynching of Mahershala, the abduction of his son by rich Confederate scum, and more random acts of violence.

AUDIENCE
This is very tragic. Racism surely was alive and flourishing after the Civil War ended. Which meant that the war was really fought for nothing – except it was about more than ending slavery anyway. That’s just the simplified version we learn in American high school history. But we won’t go there.

DIRECTOR GARY ROSS
Told you so!

AUDIENCE
So I get it, but what about the logistics of forming your own state? Did they draw up their own Constitution and Declaration of Independence? What did the official President of the United States think of this? How did they manage to grow crops in a swamp anyway? Did any of the women who lived there ever point out the double standard?

DIRECTOR GARY ROSS
Sorry, we’re out of time. Read the book this is based on instead.

END

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s