A young autistic woman runs away from her caregiver in an attempt to submit her manuscript to a “Star Trek” writing competition.
User Reviews: Similar to the Asperger’s Syndrome film "Adam" of a decade earlier, "Please Stand By" tells of a 21-year-old autistic woman thrust into the sudden need to be self-sufficient, styled in the format of a traditional Road Movie. Quality casting and acting fail to overcome scripting issues that result in a timid, unfortunately bland result.
At the advance screening I attended, in the audience discussion following the showing a viewer disparaged the movie by comparing it to a Hallmark Channel TV movie. That was a bit harsh, but it did suffer from being well-meaning but low impact.
Dakota Fanning exquisitely plays the young girl living at a communal house run by ever-patient Earth Mother Toni Collette, with her regimented daily routine clearly set out, right down to which sweater she must wear each day of the week. Cutesy gimmick dominating the film in Michael Golamco’s facile script has her obsessed with her 400-plus-page screenplay to be completed for a Paramount Pictures writing competition.
In order to meet an impending deadline she sets out by bus from Oakland to Los Angeles to hand in her script, and scripter Golamco, a graduate of the "Grimm" TV series, piles on the problems she encounters on the road. Notably she is robbed by a mean-spirited couple, replete with baby in tow, and even suffers a concussion from a crash after being befriended by wonderful Marla Gibbs, out shopping via Shuttle Bus from her retirement home.
The real issues underlying the care for an autistic relative are brought to light by the role of Dakota’s older sister, very well-played by Alice Eve in a departure from her usual "too beautiful for words" casting. However, I was heavily distracted by the sister act in that even in home movies of the duo as young kids, all I could think of was Dakota and her real-life acting sister Elle, the logical if too obvious casting for such a picture, in which Elle would have gotten Dakota’s role here.
Self-indulgence by Golamco is fatal to the overall effect of the picture, especially in many contrived scenes aiming too blatantly at warmth, typified by an otherwise amusing conversation in the Klingon language (!) between Fanning and an ultra-kindly and far, far from realistic cop who was chasing her. Ultimately the semi-happy, upbeat ending, a bit in the "Go the distance" cliche vein of Stallone’s "Rocky" ties the bow on this ephemeral package.
It suffered from what I term the Indie Syndrome, as over the past four decades the notion of Indie Films has been raised on a pedestal and marketed to an audience as an alternative to commercial cinema. Certainly indies such as the first films of artists like John Sayles, Spike Lee, Kathryn Bigelow, Wayne Wang and the Coen Bros. made their mark, but the originality and even quirkiness of these fledgling efforts of 30-plus years back have given way to a mundane sameness in recent "indie" product. "Please Stand By" is typical: attracting top talent to play meaty roles for the love of their art (rather than big pay-days) in a resulting film that is minor and low-key almost on purpose. The pretentiousness of a "Big Picture" is thankfully lacking, but also is the demonstration of importance.