Please Stand By Review

Please Stand By is 2018 a comedy/drama about a young autistic woman who runs away from her caregiver in an attempt to submit her manuscript to a “Star Trek” writing competition.

Autism in movies often has a sort of superpowers edge to it, the characters typically invested with some kind of special gift that grants them abilities beyond what ‘normal’ people have. Think of Rain Man, easily the most acclaimed of these films, and you get the idea. With Ben Lewin‘s latest Please Stand By, it mostly abandons that trope, attempting a bit more grounded realism yet can’t overcome the conventions, ultimately falling short of anything impactful.

Wendy (Dakota Fanning) is a young woman with autism, living comfortably in a special home in a San Francisco group home with many others like her. It is a place of strict routine where she survives entirely by the familiar and expected. The home is run by Scottie (Toni Collette), a kind and respectful caregiver who nurture’s Wendy’s talent as she tries to develop in her more social skills. Wendy is a creative force, however, a writer consumed by her fascination with Star Trek, inspiring her to work on a script of her own. When Wendy learns though that her submission can’t possibly meet the deadline in Los Angeles my mail in time, she runs away to deliver it in person, taking on a journey that sees her encounter the worst and the best in humanity.

Wendy is not the closed-in type though, very high functioning, with a part time job at Cinnabon and is very understanding of her precise habits, ones that allow her to get through her day. She ‘escapes’ as it were in old episodes of classic Star Trek, the themes and messages of these shows framing a lot about how she tackles the hurdles of living as she does, her writing and adventure paralleling her real life.

Naturally, this all comes down to Fanning, who is in no uncertain terms, one of the more fearless and affecting talents of her generation, who has time and again proven she is not willing to settle for perfuctory cute girl roles. I greatly appreciate her efforts here and commend many choices she made in bringing Wendy to life, however, while the character is certainly entertaining, it lacks conviction. Wendy is an amalgam of clichés and quirky-girl standards, complete with a hug-worthy pooch, ending up feeling more staged than authentic.

There’s good work by others. Collette is, as typical of her work, entirely convincing, making her someone the film could have spent a lot more time with. Alice Eve (a Star Trek veteran) plays Wendy’s sister and carries some weight to the story, though others are far more transparent, like a brief turn from Patton Oswalt as a police officer with a penchant for sci-fi. And with that in mind, having some knowledge of the Trekkie universe will surely lend you a bit more familiarity to the story, though the film works hard to bridge the gap of those not in the know.

Please Stand By is devoted to its premise and as such maintains a purposeful detachment to staying genuine, trying hard to inspire its audience rather than educate them. For this, it mostly works and earns some credit for sticking to it message. It’s just unfortunate it couldn’t have been more attentive to an earnest look at Wendy.

Please Stand By Review

Movie description: PLEASE STAND BY IS 2018 A COMEDY/DRAMA ABOUT A YOUNG AUTISTIC WOMAN WHO RUNS AWAY FROM HER CAREGIVER IN AN ATTEMPT TO SUBMIT HER MANUSCRIPT TO A "STAR TREK" WRITING COMPETITION.

Director(s): Ben Lewin

Actor(s): Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette, Alice Eve

Genre: Comedy. Drama

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