Movie Review: Please Stand By (2018)

Title: Please Stand By

Director: Ben Lewin

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette, Alice Eve

Rating: C+

Recommended?: No

Genre: Drama

Watched On: Netflix DVD


Wendy (Dakota Fanning) is a trekkie with autism who lives at a group home and leads a very narrow life, abiding almost perfectly by her routine. When she writes a unusually lengthy Star Trek fan fiction script to enter into a contest, she runs away from her group home and decides to go to Los Angeles, California to have her script submitted. Meanwhile, Wendy’s sister Audrey (Alice Eve) and caregiver Scottie (Toni Collette) scrambling around somewhat incompetently looking for her.

 

I’m a writer and I have Asperger’s Syndrome, so I should be the target audience for this movie; however, I couldn’t look past it’s glaring flaws. To be fair, I tend to be unusually critical of movies that feature characters on the autism spectrum, but even without my wariness of these films it’s hard to get past the fact that Please Stand By is ultimately the story of how a group of cardboard cutout characters enable an entitled little brat who happens to have autism.  I personally thought the film sorely lacked interesting characters (as opposed to ‘quirky’) and didn’t see any believable development of Wendy’s character.

 

The coolest part of Please Stand By was the Klingon-speaking cop played by Patton Oswalt, too bad he was only on-screen for about five minutes and they gave it away in the trailer. In fact, the film has a great cast, and Dakota Fanning’s performance as a young woman with autism was actually pretty decent, considering how hard a character like that is to pull off.

 

However, along with the paper thin characterizations the plot felt just plain contrived, it seemed very unlikely that with the challenges facing a runaway with autism the police would get involved as late as they did, or that Wendy would repeatedly slip from the authority’s hands the way she was portrayed as doing. It felt almost sitcomish, and it almost felt too lighthearted at times, like it was flirting with darker subject matter but decided to go the silly route instead. The soundtrack was another glaring flaw, it was uninspired and became annoying after about five minutes, and was deeply frustrating after an hour and a half.

 

It’s unfortunate that Wendy often comes off as bratty more than anything else, or that she is ultimately rewarded for behaviors that put herself and others at risk. It’s honestly hard to root for her, which is a shame because she’s the only character with more than a moment of thought put into them. Toni Collette is such a great actress, but she’s tragically wasted as a character who’s only job is to fret over Wendy. Overall, the actors do the best they can but are bogged down by mediocre screenwriting. Films about autism generally don’t tend to be that good, and unfortunately Please Stand By is no exception. It’s not an aggressively bad movie, just a overwhelmingly forgettable one.

One thought on “Movie Review: Please Stand By (2018)

  1. Thanks for the review, sorry to hear it wasn’t a great movie! I hadn’t heard anything about this movie, but I suppose I’ve been out of the loop where movies are concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

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