We do not deserve a “Please Stand By” (review with video)

The seemingly impossible has happened: an original idea in Hollywood with a big name, classic sci-fi connection that is wholly and totally unexpected.

Welcome back one and all.

It has been some time since I have written a film review. because honestly, this is what I have had to deal with for the last several years:

  1. Another comic book/sci-fi themed film or sequel.
  2. Another comic book/sci-fi themed film or sequel that talks a good game about integrity, but ultimately favors the status quo, even though in the real world this system in literally killing people.
  3. Another comic book/sci-fi themed film or sequel where white people portray characters written for people of color.
  4. Another comic book/sci-fi themed film or sequel where downtrodden people decide not take arms against their oppressors and not give dispossessed people technology that would free them, keeping the status quo (see #2).
  5. Another comic book/sci-fi themed film...oh what the hell, THE TRUTH: more BS that people will make excuses for because, well, fanboys/fangirls/fan non-binary persons will believe is groundbreaking, as long as it features x-character in spandex or on a spaceship, right?

It's like I have said about the new series of poorly scripted, terribly acted and just plain dull Star Wars films: If you truly want a George Lucas nostalgia trip, watch American Graffiti. I know, you haven't seen it because the soundtrack is filled with early Black Rock and Roll artists...your problem not mine, but somehow you have led yourself to believe that just because there are lead characters in these current films that feature women and people of color, that this is somehow a step forward, even though they have been given shit scripts to work with, making them look like pawns ultimately in the bigger game of "let's not piss off our white, male base of ticket buyers".

If you have been as disgusted and done with this turn of events and sellout tactics, you are in for something that will truly knock you on your ass: an original idea in Hollywood that has a tie-in to a classic, big name, huge fan base currently viable on TV and film franchise that defies the odds and expectations.

Please Stand By, a low-budget film released online and on the art-house circuit earlier this year, is currently hitting the streaming services, like Hulu. The film stars Dakota Fanning (former child star and lately of The Runaways and the Twilight films) as Wendy, an autistic young woman that lives in a group home in San Francisco, works at a Cinnabon, and has a dream: she has written an "epic saga" (over 400 pages!) utilizing characters in the Star Trek universe to enter into a fan script contest, sponsored by Paramount Pictures. Playing her sister is real-life Star Trek film alumnus Alice Eve (scientist Carol Marcus in the recent big screen Trek reboots), and the always incredible Toni Collette (television's United States of Tara and the films Muriel's Wedding and The Hours) plays the director of the group home Wendy lives in.

Unfortunately, that dream is derailed when she is unable to get her script to the post office to make the deadline, and to make matters worse, it is a holiday weekend, ensuring that there is no way possible to get her script to Los Angeles in time. Undaunted, Wendy takes the boldest of chances: she disobeys her instructions and is bound and determined to get to Paramount on her own, by any means necessary. Well, almost alone, but no plot spoiler here.

Dakota Fanning, with her script, in the movie Please Stand By. (Vivian Zink / Magnolia Pictures)

A series of tragic and sometimes darkly comic mishaps of course occur, and all are unfortunately believable. Fanning plays the character with sympathy but not pity and is wonderfully determined; only the coldest hearts in the room would not be hoping she finishes her journey. You never get the feeling that Fanning is playing this part incorrectly, nor is it steeped in pathos and despair. Her portrayal is reminiscent of my real-life uncle Joseph, a man with autism who also defied the odds on many occasions. I can't speak and won't speak for everyone with an autism spectrum disorder, because my close personal experience is limited to him, but what I saw hits home.

A short but truly uber-geek moment comes late in the film with Fanning and comedian/actor Patton Oswalt (playing a police officer, no less). In truly lesser and misunderstood hands, it could have come off as tragically pathetic, but somehow they pull it off brilliantly. There are  other moments in the film that blatantly go straight for the heartstrings, but they seem to serve the story well, giving light-hearted moments to Wendy's life where happiness seems out of her grasp.

Yes, this is what a Star Trek fan film looks like: (l-r) Alice Eve, Toni Collette, Blaster and River Alexander from Please Stand By. (Vivian Zink / Magnolia Pictures)

You have, in a sense, seen films with a similar story. What makes this film special is what the rest of you have been trying to tell us makes the recent Another comic book/sci-fi themed film or sequel you crow about as groundbreaking but ultimately can't really pull off: this is a great film with wonderfully written female characters that are smart, resilient and not dependent on anything but imagination and determination instead of underdeveloped roles and cliches.

No explosions, no spaceships, no special effects, no spandex, not a sequel and not selling out: We don't deserve a Star Trek film like this, but thankfully, it exists: a rare and original Hollywood film that really reminds us all that dreams still matter and are worth fighting for, or boldly going where other sci-fi tie ins don't.

Love to you all.

Ben "Bear" Brown Jr., owner


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