Chinatown (1974)

 

Screenplay Genre: Crime / Drama / Mystery

Movie Time: 130 minutes

1. INCITING INCIDENT

In 1930s drought-ridden Los Angeles, Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), a savvy private detective, is hired by Ida Sessions (Diane Ladd), posing as Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray, in order to confirm her suspicions that her husband, Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling), the Water Commissioner of Los Angeles, is cheating on her. Gittes gets the job done fast, but when the photos he took hit the papers, the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) shows up with her lawyer in tow wielding a lawsuit. (00:18:50)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

Gittes attempts to meet with Hollis Mulwray and smooth things out, but he’s not at home. Evelyn Mulwray meets with him and surprisingly agrees to drop the lawsuit, but Gittes intends to pursue the matter because he hasn’t gotten to the bottom of things yet. He explains that he’s not used to being the one caught with his pants down. (00:28:12)

3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)

After Hollis turns up dead, drowned, Gittes is attacked by hired thugs while snooping around a Water Department reservoir trying to dig up some answers. The next day, Evelyn shows up in Gittes’ office again and offers him his usual fee plus a very generous bonus if he finds out what happened to her husband and who was involved. (00:55:32)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

After meeting with Noah Cross (John Huston), Evelyn’s father, who wants to find the missing girl Hollis was allegedly having an affair with, Gittes checks out a lead on properties in the valley, only to be attacked by angry farmers claiming he’s a stooge for the Water Department. Fortunately, Evelyn picks him up and takes him back to her house where they spend the night together. She leaves suddenly after a late phone call, and when Gittes follows her, he finds that Evelyn has been keeping the missing girl hostage all along. He’s been had, again. (1:27:40)

5. THIRD ACT TWIST

Tired of being jerked around, and convinced that she is her husband’s murderer, Gittes confronts Evelyn about the girl, slapping her in the face until he gets the answer. Evelyn breaks down and confesses that the girl Katherine is her sister and her daughter. From this unexpected reveal, everything falls into place: Evelyn is trying to protect her sister/daughter from the incestuous Noah Cross. So now Gittes decides to try and help Evelyn escape with Katherine to Mexico.  (1:45:45)


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