Starring Madeline Zima, Joel David Moore and Abraham Benrubi
Directed by Stuart Acher
From Stupendous Films
by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume
After fractured thriller Memento hit it big, many films tinkered with alternating, time-bending plots. #Stuck has the unique distinction of stealing the narrative structure wholesale with no attempt to alter or deviate from Memento’s intricate layout.
#Stuck begins its theft, like Christopher Nolan’s mystery thriller from 2000, smack dab in the middle of the story: Holly and Guy (like Guy Pearce from Memento) wake up after a one-night stand to take stock of their respective hangovers. Holly’s car is across town, so Guy offers to drive her. As the sobering-up couple get snarled in an epic traffic jam — she calls it the “drive of shame” — the film is intercut with flashbacks that begin with the sex (shot in an awkward first-person perspective) and then creep backward in time with each new flashback, revealing the foreplay then the dancing at the bar, then the drinking at the bar and eventually their arrival at the bar. So, as one part of the film trods forward, the flashbacks lumber backward.
Although, the setup is not original, and not altogether necessary, it provides an interesting dichotomy: the further away from the middle #Stuck gets, the more I liked it. Holly and Guy are terrible drunks, and their buzzed banter is cringeworthy, but as their monumental traffic jam balloons to absurd proportions — engines are shut off, motorists hang out of open doors, UPS drivers tinker on their phones — they slowly begin to reveal who they are.
Guy, played by Joel David Moore (the lanky sidekick in Avatar), is a hook-up artist, but also a nerdy tax dweeb with a license plate that reads “APR 15.” Holly, played by Madeline Zima — equal parts Moira Kelly, Meg Ryan and Maggie Gyllenhaal — is a lawyer and serial monogamist. Together they don’t have much chemistry, but they’re so likable on their own it’s almost forgivable.
Stuart Acher’s film looks and sounds very low-budget, because it is, although he uses his money and resources wisely. Notice how the traffic jam scenes take place on a slow curve on a Los Angeles freeway, which prevents us from seeing down a long, and expensive, row of stopped cars. And when he can’t shoot thousands of real cars stacked up on the highway he uses budget CGI to show the scope of the carmageddon. It’s cheap, but also kinda charming.
Where #Stuck, which has the hashtag for no discernible reason, gets especially mired is in its wonky dialogue. There’s simply too much of it, and whole passages lead to dead ends, as if anyone cared what Guy really thought about women and cell phones — “Another vibrating device that men have to compete with,” he shrugs. The writing quality is most noticeable in the sex scenes and random sex discussions, because there is nothing worse than bad dialogue except bad sexually explicit dialogue.
The film ends precisely where you expected it to. On the other side of the Memento curve, it begins in a place you won’t expect, which might make you wonder why the film had flashbacks to begin with. I wondered that, too. Maybe it just got stuck?