Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Film Review: STUCK (2008, Stuart Gordon)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 85 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Jeffrey Combs (star of REANIMATOR and many Gordons; here, in a cameo as the voice of the 911 operator), Russell Hornsby.
Tag-lines: "Ever had one of those days?"
Best exchange:
PETERSON: Of course, this is not an official offer, but I wanted you to be aware that you are high on my list of possible captains.
BRANDI: Thank you, Mrs. Petersen. I'll really try to do my best.
PETERSON: I know you will. Then I can count on you coming in tomorrow?
BRANDI: [surprised] Uh, Saturday?
PETERSON: I know what day it is, Brandi.
BRANDI: Yes, of course, I know you do; but, but I came in last Saturday.
PETERSON: Oh. I see.
[She starts to turn away]
BRANDI: But no, no, no, no, it's - I can come in, it's fine. It's no problem.

I didn't used to consider myself a Stuart Gordon fan by any means. Aside from DOLLS, his horror flicks just didn't get through to me, even though I'm was trying rather hard to like them. Yet I think sometime after DAGON, Gordon matured, began to fix his gaze upon quotidian horror, and finally found the perfect niche for his dark sense of humor. EDMOND and STUCK are by far my favorite Gordon films, and they brilliantly tackle some of the most important frustrations of our times, STUCK being a brilliant parable for the undercurrent of paralysis that seems to run beneath modern society. Using the story of Chante Mallard, the Texas woman who struck a homeless man with her vehicle and left him in her windshield to die, Gordon spins a black comedy which draws on the Kitty Genovese syndrome to the nth degree. But in this case, there's no one else to blame or to assume will 'take care of it.' It's a parable for an America who is willing to make the phone call, but hangs up as soon as someone answers. A people who will pull up to the hospital gate, but then peel out, frazzled and afraid.

It's about not being able to take responsibility, the pervasiveness of indecision, the hesitation that morphs into complete paralysis- something I think we can all truly relate to on some level, whether you're unsure about takeout options, a college major, or where to stash the body. Mena Suvari is impressive as the deluded 'upwardly mobile' nursing home attendant who lives only for the weekend club scene. Stephen Rea literally drips pathos as the recently homeless sad sack. Now some were angered by it (vague spoilers ahead), but I was actually pleased to see the narrative cathartically diverge from the news story, though I can't help but feel that it's meant as an "Owl Creek Bridge"-style finale which doesn't go through the motions of jolting back to reality. For an interesting double-bill, see it with Noah Baumbach's 1995 tale of post-grad ennui and paralysis, KICKING AND SCREAMING.

-Sean Gill

No comments: