PSA: Stay (2005), or You Know What? DON’T Stay. Just Go.

14 10 2009

Hi, everyone! Eric here, reporting on the latest, greatest, and other things not so recent or very good. I just saw Stay again, a film destined for the lands of semi-remembrance. It has big stars, a semi-famous director, and a story that is fractured and non-linear. These three factors create a place in history for Stay that is mercurial and half-recollected, alongside similar titles like that one with George Clooney, that one directed by Tom Tykwer, or, you know, that one that kinda feels like Memento but it’s about the guy photographing fairies. It’s a bit of a shame, but it did it to itself.

Stay is primarily about a psychiatrist Dr. Sam Foster, his lady Lila, and his disturbed patient Henry. Henry is a lonely artist with a touch of the crazies, and he has decided to give Sam a disheartening announcement; he will be killing himself Saturday at midnight. Sam will do anything to stop this from happening, and decides to investigate the young man further. What he finds is that nothing is as it seems. Henry has parents that he told Sam were dead, a girl he fancied that seems a little too aloof to have even known Henry. All the while, Lila begins to act strangely towards him, as if there’s something wrong. In fact, everyone seems to be acting rather strangely towards him. Will he find Henry in time before it’s too late? What has happened to Sam’s life since he started searching for the young man with a mind to kill himself? Are there deeper implications to these bizarre circumstances than Sam could guess?

Stay suffers from a case of the drabs. There’s a fine line between moody and dull, and at times the tone and the color scheme comes together in a perfect storm of blasé. I was hoping for a bit more life to be injected into this movie with the addition of the Saturday deadline for Henry committing suicide, but even then the movie trots along at a pace that would heighten the experience of a more interesting-looking movie, but bogs down this dark green and brown frown-fest.

I won’t deny its intelligence, though. Marc Forster has a real eye for details here that he used in Monster’s Ball to Oscar-winning effect. It’s all about the things that people catch that make them second-guess themselves. Certain details like pant-leg lengths and minor characters that have more meaning than we think they do abound in this complex world. Like a fracturing mirror, the image we see is the same image, but as the cracks branch out it feels more and more twisted. It actually feels very literary at times, which I appreciated. An interesting tidbit that needs to be kept in mind at all times during this movie is that Lila had also tried to commit suicide at some point; that’s when she met Sam. This little point should be digested after the movie has ended and the ending is revealed (it’s a bit of a shocker).

But these little bonuses for the audience still can’t convince us to care about who these people are. They’re damaged goods, yes, and their stories are sad, but they’re not told very well. Like an erudite man who just cannot tell a joke, this film has the capacity for so much, but just not the ability to make open itself up to us and captivate. The actors excel, for the most part, so it’s not them; it’s just that they’re set in a world where the characters are too far away and unreadable at times that they seem a little distant. Ryan Gosling as antagonist (?) Henry is almost ice cold. He might not even have a pulse. His character is artistic and highly intelligent, but hs failing is that we don’t know enough concrete things about him to care for him, only wonder about him. Ewan McGregor’s Sam is the best character. His kindness and his earnestness is very aww-shucks and endearing, and the idea of a psychiatrist taking this much interest in a patient outside of a session is refreshing. Naomi Watts is also a cold slice of bread in this moody hoagie, but, again, I don’t know if she can be blamed. Her character itself is somewhat of a riddle, and I’m not exactly sure how she should have been played. So maybe she’s doing it right, but you don’t really know who she is and where her heart lies.

I’m not sure where anything lies in the world of Stay. The whole concept reeks of Vertigo, but doesn’t maintain that film’s eventual lucidity. There is no resolution to the ending, only another reason to watch it over again. I think there is a lot of potential here, and although it MIGHT be a tad too soon to remake it, I think it’s an excellent territory for another storyteller to take it and mold it to a more emotional and aesthetically pleasing form. The basics are all there, though, and when its effective at its artistic aims, you really feel it, like at Henry’s mother’s house. And cameos from Janeane Garofalo and Bob Hoskins lend the film a louder voice, so nobody can say that this is a dull movie. But what it says and why is anyone’s guess, and I have the strong feeling that wasn’t their intention. I give Stay 5 moody hoagies out of 10. Check it out at your own discretion.

Tomorrow I’m going to do a short-but-sweet review of the very first talkie! The Jazz Singer! Until then!!!




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