I knew the moment my teenage daughter sat down and watched A Bronx Tale with me that the Main Character possessed a Holistic Problem-Solving Style. How else to explain her sacrifice of a perfectly good Saturday to watch the adventures of Sonny and C with her story-obsessed father?
Main Characters appear in two different varieties: those who solve problems Linearly and those who prefer Holism to get through their day.
Linear thinkers proceed through cause and effect and work their way up or down the ladder to success or failure.
Holistic thinkers maintain the balance between the rungs to shift the direction and speed of which the opportunity for resolution comes into focus.
Here’s the rub: Linear Audience members struggle to understand the motives and techniques of the Holistic Problem Solver. Ask any Linear-minded person about Moulin Rouge!, and they’ll cry out “Too weird”, Too gay, or I just couldn’t get into it.
These responses reflect the predominantly Linear mind’s difficulty with holistic approaches to resolving problems. How exactly does bursting out into song make things better? There’s no direct cause-and-effect, but lightening the moods of others with uplifting tunes shifts the balance between characters and opens up new avenues of escape.
Many a Holistic problem-solver enjoys the fruits of this roundabout approach—
—including Calogero (Lillo Brancato Jr.), or C, from A Bronx Tale.
The first time through this film, I labeled it broken. Deficient within the context of “a complete story,” I attributed its success to the attractiveness of its cast, the quality of the actor’s performances, and a nostalgia for a time long gone.
That is—until my daughter walked in from the kitchen, captivated by the film five minutes—and sat down on the couch next to me.
As I resumed my scheduled list of working Saturday activities, I began to pick up on dialogue and narrative dynamics that screamed otherwise: A Bronx Tale communicates a complete and unique storyform worthy of more in-depth study.
The most significant standout of this narrative is the Main Character Issue of
Enlightenment. Often a source of contention and great grief within the central character of a story, the Main Character Issue illuminates a thematic touchpoint for personal conflict.
In A Bronx Tale, C’s Issue of Enlightenment is more an indication of the problems he creates for others because of his unique and enlightened viewpoint. From age 9, he gets the exceptional balance of power within his neighborhood and refuses to “rat” on local mob boss Sonny (Chazz Palminteri). In his teen years, C dates a woman of color without giving it a second thought—his liberal viewpoint enraging everyone but him. C understands how the world works and how one should live—it’s just the people he surrounds himself with aren’t ready for his illuminating and transcendent viewpoint.
Throughout A Bronx Tale characters make determinations about how life should be and how people should act, and when others don’t fall in line—well, it’s time to lock the door and make them pay.
This Overall Story Problem of
Determination motivates conflict for everyone in the story. The Dramatica theory of story defines Determination as a conclusion as to the cause behind a particular effect and whether this is blaming African-Americans for wandering into their neighborhood or a biker gang for being disrespectful to an establishment, the citizens of the Bronx react, sometimes even visciously.
An Overall Story Concern of
Preconscious, or immediate and unthinking responses sets the source of conflict for A Bronx Tale. The population values their neighborhood and the people within—those who don’t trigger knee-jerk responses with an Overall Story Catalyst of
In the end, C’s wisdom fails to overcome the animal instinct for revenge when he lets his guard down at Sonny’s final party. C’s Main Character Critical Flaw of
Security overpowers his Main Character Unique Ability of
Wisdom, allowing the son of one of Sonny’s victims to exact revenge against the man he determines ruined his life. The Overall Story Problem of Determination persists, and a Story Outcome of
Failure ensues. As a Consequence of
Progress, Carmine (Joe Pesci) steps in and assures C that “I’ll be in the neighborhood taking care of things for a while.”
Of interest is the dynamic between the elements of
Test in the Influence Character Throughline. Both Lorenzo and Sonny—as Hand-Off Influence Characters—see the inability to Trust as a problem and Test as a possible response.
Sonny’s Determination that it is better to be feared than to be loved motivates his every action and serves as the source of his disTrust of everyone—including C. Regardless of their relationship, once Sonny discovers a bomb planted under the hood of his car he suspects C and tosses the young boy up against a brick wall—Testing the kid’s loyalty. This Influence Character Problem of
Determination, Influence Character Symptom of
Trust, and Influence Character Response of
Test establish Sonny’s problematic viewpoint—better to be feared, than to be loved.
Until C expresses his love for Sonny by crying out, “You’ve been like a father to me!”
The unexpected floors Sonny—and gives a reason for his sudden turn later when he rips open the door of C’s car and demands the boy get out. Sonny, like Lorenzo, is a Changed Influence Character; the Steadfastness of the Main Character requiring the opposing subjective character to open up and change their point-of-view. Sonny’s shift from a Problem of Determination to a Solution of
Expectation satisfies this essential element of narrative and brings A Bronx Tale to a meaningful conclusion.
While the bulk of the Influence Character Throughline rests in the hands of Sonny, the Relationship Story Throughline plays out with the dual Paternal relationships between C and his birth father, Lorenzo and C and Sonny. Here, conflicting determinations over the quality of Sonny’s character drive father and son apart. This Relationship Story Problem of
Determination, of challenging their bond, erupts when father and son differ over the facts of the situation: Sonny is a dangerous man, and hanging out with him will only lead to trouble (Relationship Story Catalyst of
Fact and Relationship Story Symptom of
Lorenzo eventually comes around, submitting the Relationship Story Solution of Expectation when he arrives unexpectedly at Sonny’s funeral. Lorenzo’s confession to the deceased that he never hated the man adds to the shared Changed Influence Character Resolve. C’s voice-over in the following scenes completes the narrative: “I learned something from these two men. I learned to give love and get love unconditionally. You just have to accept people for what they are.” Accept them with no Expectations.
The success of A Bronx Tale and the universal appeal—even with modern-day teenagers—lies in its solid and fully functional storyform. Succesfully arguing acceptance of all through its telling of a Personal Triumph, Robert DeNiro’s A Bronx Tale will endure for generation after generation.