The Paper Chase on when meetings go south

While I was frittering away time in Seattle this week, I re-read the Paper Chase, a book that is just as charming as the movie. The character of Susan, actually, is much more interesting in the book than in the movie, where she just comes off as rather neurotic.

Except for that, the movie follows the book rather closely, and anybody who saw the movie with remember the difficult study group, full of competitive law students, that Hart and his friend, Ford, put together. The other members of the group are Kevin Brooks, a student who struggles in law school because of depression; Bell who is obsessed with property law and doesn’t want to outline anything else (and is a bully); and Anderson, who is what the other students call a “robot”–a studying machine who learns everything, but has little love or affinity for the law.

During one of their less-productive meetings, when the insults rage and pettiness ensues, Ford reboots:

Ford rocked back in his chair.

“All right, we’re just going to sit here quietly for the next three minutes. No one is going to say anything. Then after we’ve all enjoyed the silence, we’ll start this meeting over again.”

The movie skips this brilliant bit of dialogue, which is a shame, because all of us who have these kinds of meetings recognize the need to put adults in time-outs.

Here is the movie version: