Wednesday, May 04, 2011
FILM REVIEW: Stuck Between Stations (@Tribeca Film Festival)
The key to romantic films that take place over the course of one day/night is great chemistry. The lead characters need to have an intense back-and-forth. Take One Fine Day for example, Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney are at each other's throats for half the film and then they slowly start to see the parts of the person they were too busy judging to see from the beginning. Then there's Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, where Kat Dennings and Michael Cera are actually forced together by a mixture of peer pressure and desperation. They're reluctant to be paired off, but they ultimately realize that they're more perfect for one another than they are for their unworthy exes. And then there's Can't Hardly Wait, where Lauren Ambrose and Seth Green get locked in a bathroom during a party, hash out why they stopped being friends, and then act on their dormant attraction for each other. A little animosity with an undercurrent of curiosity are vital ingredients for creating a well-rounded love story of how two people can manage to fall for each other in less than 24hrs. They have to go through the usual ups-and-downs of a relationship in hours as opposed to months, and they have to make it seem completely plausible.
What was also appreciated was the fact that the characters were just as interesting apart. Casper wasn't your a-typical soldier, suffering from PTSD or waking nightmares, transformed into an introverted, "mysterious" guy. He was another version of the modern day soldier: not afraid to fight, but not confident enough to be called a hero. I liked that they were both flawed. It wasn't like the guy was a fixer-upper, someone the female character had to improve. She had her issues too, with self-esteem and motivation. Neither was an easily insertable archetype: cheerleader + geek. Newcomers Rosen and Jones did an amazing job of captivating the audience through these characters, Rosen with his shy-but-spontaneous schtick that charmed the ladies and Jones with her sharp tongue and scathing brush-offs, channeling a less self-loathing and intense Janeane Garofalo.
As for the ending, I can understand why some of the audience members were hoping for insight as to what later happens to the characters a la Can't Hardly Wait, especially since Casper had a very last-hurrah kind of vibe about him, like maybe his luck would run out soon. But I agree with co-screenwriter Rosen, who said that the point of their promise to meet again was so that they'd both have hope that it would happen—that he'd survive his last year in Iraq and that she wouldn't further self-destruct. Here's to getting out of our own way.