Jerry Maguire

Inciting Event: After an extremely long intro of voiceover exposition, Jerry writes his “mission statement” about putting people first in the sports agency—and is fired. When he is fired, this kicks off the conflict, and he immediately scrambles to try to maintain his own clients—only to end up with a single one, the slightly obnoxious wide receiver Rod. Right before Jerry is fired, he meets Dorothy and her son Ray at the airport, which neatly packages the Inciting Events for both parts of the plot.

First Plot Point: Jerry leaves the sports agency that night and challenges the other employees to come with him and start a better company. Only Dorothy, who was inspired by his mission statement, comes with him. Again, this neatly combines the two sides of the plot: Jerry’s career and his eventual romance with Dorothy. It’s also a prime example of the protagonist leaving his Normal World for the uncharted waters of the Second Act.

First Pinch Point: On the eve of the NFL draft, Jerry learns Cush, the star football player around whom he planned to rebuild his client list, has broken his word and signed instead with Jerry’s old agency. Right after this blow, Jerry realizes something is missing in his relationship with his unsympathetic fiancée and breaks up with her—only to have her punch him out. The new clues introduced here aren’t so much clues as revelations about the people in Jerry’s life: his untrustworthy client and his shallow fiancée. This scene neatly emphasizes what’s at stake for him, both professionally and personally if he can’t get his life back together.

Midpoint: On an impulse, Jerry asks Dorothy to go out with him. Up to this point, they’ve both been striving to keep their relationship on a professional basis. But this signals the major turn as Jerry decides to pursue a relationship with this quiet, supportive single mother.

Second Pinch Point: Jerry and Dorothy get married. This is an interesting Pinch Point, since on the surface, it seems a totally positive thing. But within the context of the story, this is actually the worst thing that could happen to the characters at this point, since Jerry still isn’t completely sure how he feels about Dorothy. He’s marrying her primarily because he can’t bear the thought of being alone. Rod later calls him out on this, and Jerry then proceeds to let Rod have it regarding the truth about Rod’s bad attitude and why he’s not getting paid better. This creates a small rift between Jerry and Rod that then propels them both toward the Climax.

Third Plot Point: Dorothy recognizes Jerry’s heart doesn’t seem to be in their marriage, and she asks for a divorce. Even though Jerry agrees with her, this crushes him. It pushes him to a low moment, where he has to completely reevaluate all his motives and priorities.

Climax: During an important Monday Night Football game, Rod makes a spectacular touchdown and is knocked out. When he wakes up, he realizes the fans love him because of how hard he played his heart out—on Jerry’s advice. This inspires Jerry to then go home and tell Dorothy he does love her and that he’s not giving up on their marriage.

Climactic Moment: Rod learns Jerry has secured him a major contract extension. This is the Climactic Moment for the plot—and not Jerry’s declaration to Dorothy—because the overall conflict has always been Jerry’s trying to reestablish his business.

Resolution: Jerry and Dorothy walk through the park with Ray, who demonstrates an impressive throwing arm.

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