I often tell screenwriting students not to avoid the difficult scene. By “difficult scene” I mean one involving a serious confrontation, a declaration of love or infidelity, or a confession of sin or weakness. These are scenes that lesser writers try to work around, since they are so difficult to write. But these scenes are the cornerstones of a meaningful story. Without them, the script will sag and perhaps collapse.
Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson doesn’t avoid the difficult scenes. On the contrary, he embraces them. His films Boogie Nights and Magnolia are chock-full of them. And though his penchant for wrestling with raw emotions can lead to a bumpy ride, one has to admire his ambition as a filmmaker and storyteller.