(For Day 1 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt is for a poem of instructions, so I wrote up one describing a rigid daily routine, not unlike that of the autistic main character in this film.)

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Wake up at 7, not early or late,
Then shower at once so you won’t have to wait.
Two squirts of shampoo but just one of toothpaste,
And spit as you brush to get rid of the taste.
It’s Monday, so dress in the blue shirt today,
Then go and eat breakfast and be on your way.
Don’t walk at the crosswalk when there’s a red hand,
And move (not too slowly) to reach work as planned.

Whatever your boss says, you do like you learned,
And roll your eyes only when his back is turned.
When your shift is over, retrace your steps back,
And practice your lessons with time for a snack.
At eight o’clock sharp, time for your favorite show,
And those who don’t like it are welcome to go.
Depending on whether there might be dessert,
Get ready for bed then (remember, one squirt).

Your eight-thousand six-hundred and twelfth day is next
And if something happens you do not expect,
Don’t panic; please stand by while life interjects.

MPAA rating:  PG-13 (two obscenities [1 F, 1 S], pretty clean otherwise)

Every year, I look out for that one obscure movie that I can champion, one that no one’s heard of but I can confidently call a new favorite of mine. Past examples would include King of Thorn or Chronesthesia, and while Please Stand By isn’t the strongest of the group, I think it might be 2018’s contribution.  While a road trip movie featuring an autistic character may be reminiscent of Rain Man, Please Stand By distinguishes itself as its own story, thanks to a nerdily engaging journey and strong character work from Dakota Fanning and Alice Eve (oh, and a cute dog).

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Fanning plays young Star Trek fan Wendy, a high-functioning autistic girl living in a group home under the care of Toni Collette’s Scottie. (Sadly, they never use the joke “Beam me up, Scottie.”) Eager to win money and the respect of her sister Audrey (Alice Eve, herself a Star Trek alumnus), Wendy types up a screenplay for a Star Trek writing contest, and when she realizes mailing it would miss the deadline, she decides to forsake her routine and travel on her own from Oakland to Los Angeles to deliver it herself.

Deriving its name from the phrase Scottie uses to help Wendy stay calm, Please Stand By charmed me, combining two of my favorite things, Star Trek and the Meet-‘Em-And-Move-On genre, wherein a character makes a journey and meets various others along the way (and yes, I made up that name). Wendy herself is a great main character, smart but overly focused and naïve when it comes to the ways of the world. Those she meets sometimes offer rude awakenings, while others are sympathetic and helpful, with Patton Oswalt in particular furthering his nerdy everyman cred. (By the way, don’t watch the trailer; it gives the whole movie away.)

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My VC thought Please Stand By was a nice movie but nothing special, while I can’t help but like it the more I think of it. There are some loose ends and a middle section that loses momentum, but I enjoyed rooting for Wendy’s journey and seeing it to its optimistic conclusion. It might be the Trek fan in me, and I might end up changing my mind by the end of the year when I’ll have to fit it into my List, but I’m going to call Please Stand By List-Worthy, if only so others will give it a try. It’s a sleeper gem that deserves more love.

Best line: (Scottie, after trying to read Wendy’s script) “Okay, so, I know he’s the hero of Star Wars, but who exactly is this Kirk person?”


Rank: List-Worthy


© 2019 S.G. Liput
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