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Standing Still (3/10)

by Tony Medley

Shot in only three weeks by first time director Matthew Cole Weiss on a low budget from a screenplay by Matthew Perniciaro and Timm Sharp, this is a film with all new actors. At least they were new to me. I had to keep notes to tell who the players were.

Richie (Aaron Stanford) and Samantha (Melissa Sagemiller) are living together. Samantha wants to get married while Richie is dubious. Cut to Michael (Adam Garcia) and Elise (Amy Adams), who actually are getting married in a few days. The film is about their marital preparations with all their friends, including Richie and Samantha, apparently at the house occupied by Michael and Elise.

This is an unbalanced picture of the present generation in their 20s. Three of the four main women are lesbians, or have had lesbian affairs. Just about everyone but Elise smokes. Sex is rampant, not something that represents love and affection or to have and raise children in a loving familial setting. No, sex to these people is what teenagers imagine it to be, with none of the implications, consequences, and commitments. Hollywood to the contrary notwithstanding, there is no reliable record that this generation of 20-somethings is any more amoral or bisexual than Ernest Hemingway’s.

Quentin (Colin Hanks) is an agent, despite the fact that he looks like he might be eligible to graduate from high school in a couple of years. As a result, his tough talk as an agent without a heart is simply not credible. Hanks, who looks like a high school boy acting like he thinks an agent acts, is monumentally miscast.

Pockets (Jon Abraham) is picked up for soliciting as he propositions an undercover officer. Unfortunately, Weiss, Perniciaro, and Sharp apparently did no research because what the character says to the cop would not be enough to justify an arrest, even though he does offer her money. Legally, it takes more than that. An undercover cop would know better than to flash the badge before the john had made a legally incriminating proposal.

Quentin jumps into bed with a girl who turns out to be 17 years old. There is no moral problem with him sleeping with someone he doesn’t know and who is the younger sister of one of the other characters. No, the only thing he’s worried about is going to jail for statutory rape.

As to the smoking, it’s not just that they smoke, which is bad enough. No, smoking is treated cinematically like it used to be treated back in the ‘30s and ‘40s when the tobacco companies paid big money to promote their product and a cinematic cigarette provided celluloid characters with such wonderful relief. Is it possible today to watch an actor or actress have a near orgasmic reaction after taking a deep inhalation of cigarette smoke, and not feel a pain in the chest where the smoke is doing such mortal damage?

In spite of the script, the acting by the ensemble cast is pretty good, highlighted by Jon Abrahams as Pockets, a guy who can’t get a girl, Amy Adams (Elise), and Melissa Sagemiller (Samantha). However, I was struck by the fact that Weiss cast enormously attractive people for all the roles. In a group of 8-10 people like this, not all of them would look like drop dead gorgeous movie stars. I would have liked to have seen a few who looked more like Jack Elam and Rosie O’Donnell than Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow.

These are just a few of the problems with the superficiality of this film. Ten minutes would be a long time to spend with these shallow people; a 90-minute movie was far too long.

April 10, 2006