Please Stand By hits theaters and On Demand January 26th.
By Kevin R. Levine
Calling all Trekkies! Captain Kev, calling all Trekkies! I, for one, am actually not a Star Trek fan, but if you are, this movie is for you! Please Stand By, directed by Ben Lewin, is a film that would’ve easily slipped through the cracks for me had I not received a screener link. Honestly, I probably would’ve never seen or even heard of the movie. But that’s why I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in my young film journalism career – opportunities to learn about, watch, and champion these well-made indie films that almost no one will see. The trailer for Please Stand By really caught my eye after I was offered the chance to watch and review this film. The trailer gave me all the makings of a high-risk/high-reward film, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, my friends, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
As it usually goes for low-budget indie films, Please Stand By‘s success as a compelling story lies on the shoulders of the screenwriters and actors. Dakota Fanning has never been better. Lately she’s been overshadowed by the many successes of her younger sister, Elle, but Dakota has not given up. She makes a statement here – a statement saying that she can indeed act. Like her former Twilight cast-mates, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, she has proven herself to be a legitimate talent. Fanning plays a young autistic woman named Wendy. Wendy is a huge fan of Star Trek and, while she’s staying in an assisted-living home, she learns of a Star Trek screenplay contest with which she becomes passionately obsessed. She spends the majority of about 4 days or so working on her script and shutting everyone else out of her life. The problem is she lives in the Bay Area of Northern California, the script needs to be mailed to Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles, and it’s a long holiday weekend.
Fanning’s character sets off on this runaway journey to Los Angeles during which she encounters many obstacles and is constantly taken advantage of by strangers due to her Autism. If Fanning’s performance doesn’t work, this film instantly falls flat on its face. That’s not the case. Fanning’s portrayal of a young autistic woman is impeccable and quite possibly the best portrayal of Autism I’ve seen in a film in years. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Education, and I’m about to finish a Master’s degree in Education, so I have plenty of experience working with students on the Autism spectrum. I was convinced and compelled by Fanning’s performance. I didn’t feel like I was watching a method actor; I felt like I was watching someone who was legitimately on the spectrum. Dakota Fanning is absolutely the film’s shining star.
That’s enough about Fanning’s performance, though, because she’s not the only person in the movie. The supporting cast around her elevates the film to another level. Toni Collette, Alice Eve, Jessica Rothe, Patton Oswalt, Tony Revolori, and the rest of the cast all came to play as well. Toni Collette plays Scottie, the owner of the home Wendy lives in. Alice Eve plays Audrey, Wendy’s older sister. Jessica Rothe plays Julie, a woman Wendy encounters on her bizarre road trip to Los Angeles. Patton Oswalt plays a cop and fellow Trekkie that Wendy meets. Tony Revolori plays Nemo, Wendy’s coworker at Cinnabon who clearly has a crush on her, though she’s oblivious. Some of these characters have larger roles than others, but none of the roles are wasted. I’m no Trekkie, as I said earlier, but there is a scene in this film where Oswalt and Fanning’s characters have a full conversation in Klingon and I thought it was brilliant dialogue.
Though it’s clever and probably takes the film up another level if you’re a Trekkie, the film’s abundance of Star Trek knowledge is a downside for me. I know the basics of Star Trek; I know about Kirk, Picard, Spock, Vulcans, etc., but I’m not die-hard about it and don’t care enough to attempt to learn every little thing about the series. Please Stand By is overflowing with Star Trek references and easter eggs that I simply didn’t understand since my fandom is only casual. I’ve seen the new JJ Abrams Star Trek trilogy, and they are fun movies, but I didn’t get invested into them enough to see any previous Star Trek films or shows. I say this as a warning to those of you are probably not into Trek, there are a lot of references you will not understand. Please Stand By knows that it’ll have an audience of non-Trekkies, so it does its best to have expositional dialogue that explains the basics of Trek, but it doesn’t always work.
However, do not let that turn you away from this film. At its heart, Please Stand By is simply an inspirational story about a young woman pursuing her ultimate dream. It is heartfelt, emotional, and completely earnest in the way the story is presented and acted. It’s definitely Trek-heavy, but the film does enough to captivate and inspire viewers because of the story being one that is easily relatable for almost everyone. We all have dreams we are pursuing or have previously pursued and Please Stand By is the kind of film that inspires me to keep writing reviews and never give up, even if it seems like I’m going nowhere right now. Check out Please Stand By when it becomes available on VOD platforms on January 26, 2018.
I give Please Stand By a B+.