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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Please Stand By movie review: fan trek

Please Stand By green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A lovely, gentle geek adventure that appreciates the importance of fandom as a source of inspiration and comfort, with a subtle and resolutely unsentimental performance by Dakota Fanning as an autistic fan.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for stories about women; I’m a big geek
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

Logline: Wendy is a young autistic woman who takes an unauthorized leave from her San Francisco group home to travel to Los Angeles so she can drop off her Star Trek script at Paramount HQ in time to meet the deadline for a fan contest. The potential for disaster in such a scenario is enormous, but the lovely, gentle Please Stand By gets it all absolutely right. Dakota Fanning (Every Secret Thing) is subtle and resolutely unsentimental as Wendy, crafting a complicated, complex character who is not defined by her difference, who does not invite us to feel sorry for her, and who invites us into the challenges Wendy faces in dealing with the world and with other people in a way that is warm, humane, and makes no apologies. Her Wendy is not Other, though she sometimes feels that she is… which is why she fixates in particular on Mister Spock, and on his difficulties in interacting with humans and in understanding his own emotions.

Please Stand By’s supporting female characters cover a wide range of human experience and expression.

Screenwriter Michael Golamco, story editor and writer in the TV series Grimm, does not treat fandom as a joke, though it is sometimes funny here, as when, in her travels, Wendy has an unexpected encounter with another Trekkie. But that meeting is also deeply moving, because Please Stand By appreciates the importance of fandom as a source of inspiration, comfort, understanding, and friendship, particularly for those of us who have trouble fitting in. Delightfully, this charming geek adventure also features a wide range of supporting female characters — including Toni Collette (Unlocked) as Scottie (heh), in charge of Wendy’s group home, and Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness, heh) as Wendy’s sister — who run the full gamut of human experience and expression; they are kind, cruel, indifferent, and everything in between.

Director Ben Lewin is perhaps best known previously for The Sessions, his sensitive and funny 2012 film about a paralyzed man and his sex surrogate, and he brings that same empathy and tender humor to Please Stand By. You don’t need to be a fan of Star Trek to love this tribble of a movie, but that will likely add an extra layer of warm fuzzies for you. You’ll also find yourself doing a deep analysis over the title of Wendy’s script, The Many and the Few, and how it connects with her life, and your own.

Please Stand By opens tomorrow in New York, Los Angeles, Knoxville, Baltimore, and Vancouver. See the film’s official site for future dates and cities. Also available on demand in the US and Canada from tomorrow.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other releases.

green light 4 stars

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Please Stand By (2018) | directed by Ben Lewin
US/Can release: Jan 26 2018 (VOD same day)

MPAA: rated PG-13 for brief strong language

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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