I have 493 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Stuck (2007)
What’s it rated? Rated R for Mena Suvari’s cornrows, a fairly bleak view of humanity and a cute little puppy licking exposed bone.
Did people make it? Written by John Strysik and Stuart Gordon. Directed by Stuart Gordon. Acted by Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea and Russell Hornsby.
What’s it like in one sentence? A fable about the combination of American indifference with American indolence, filtered through the lens of one of our most fun horror directors.
Why did you watch it? Gabe T, RCA and WeAreLegion made me see the error of my ways in regards to never watching the movie just because of Mena Suvari.
What’s it about in one paragraph? A man gets kicked out of his tiny apartment at the same time a young caregiver gets possible good news about a promotion. That night, she parties her face off while the newly homeless man acquires a shopping cart and starts pushing around the last of his earthly remains in search of a place to sleep. As he crosses the street against the light, she’s dicking around on her cellphone and hits him, breaking his leg and launching him through her windshield. After almost dropping him off at the hospital, but then chickening out, she parks the car in her garage with him still stuck in the windshield. For him, the film is about his struggle to find a little help, and for her, the film is about what you do when all of your choices suck but you still have to make one.
Play or remove from my queue? Play it when you’re in the mood for something like this. If you’re not ready for a movie that basically amounts to 90 minutes of Stephen Rea bleeding out and Mena Suvari furrowing her (admittedly massive) brow with worry, then you might dismiss this movie as much more minor than it actually is. The overarching themes of choice, responsibility and the dividing line between needing help and helping yourself creates some pretty heady stuff to chew on once the film ends. I definitely dismissed this movie before watching it just based on the plot because I figured it would be 90 minutes of Suvari being an unlikable troll, interspersed with scenes of Stephen Rea dying slowly. In a way, that’s exactly what the movie is, but with Stuart Gordon’s perfectly paced direction and a smart little corker of a script, it works like gangbusters.
I am a huge Stuart Gordon fan. Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, Robot Jox, Fortress, Castle Freak, Dagon, King of the Ants and Edmond are among my favorite genre outings of all time (especially Castle Freak and Re-Animator), and his outings for the horror anthology shows Masters of Horror and Fear Itself were both highlights of the entire run of both series (Eater, his film for Fear Itself, is a fucking classic). I’d watch this guy direct Pruitt Taylor Vince and Brian Peppers oil wrestling, so I don’t know why I never gave this one a chance (aside from it sounding like misery porn). I’m not a fan of Mena Suvari (partially because I get the vibe in interviews with her that she thinks she’s much better of an actress than reality proves, but mostly because of her forehead) and I’ve always been a little lukewarm on Stephen Rea. He’s a fine actor and I enjoyed him in The Crying Game and Citizen X, but I always felt like he’s a member of the William Hurt school of acting, where you try and seem so bored and empty that you become a damn fine facsimile of a natural human person. In Stuck, Suvari and Rea are both fantastic, however. She plays against type and is much more likable than I expected (she’s still a fucking monster, but I could look at her without experiencing rage, so that’s a plus) and Stephen Rea (while still being sort of a mush mouthed schlub) seems very energized in the role and commits fully to all of his horrible problems. Gordon also knocks the directing out of the park, while being very straightforward and unobtrusive about it. He’s mostly invisible for the film, yet successfully ramps up the tension to the point where the final ten minutes almost becomes unbearable. When some of his trademark comedic gore enters into things, it feels like a welcome friend instead of a violation of the tone he previously set up. Gordon should be so much bigger than he is and it breaks my heart that he has to fight for financing to make every single one of his pictures.
Stuck is a deceptively simple movie and the themes it plays with are fascinatingly toyed out, although I’d say the film lands on a definitive side of the help yourself\be helped argument. I can get into more of that next week, as it mostly deals with the final moments of the film. It’s a wicked little thriller that isn’t just content being one thing, as it has heaps of social commentary and disdain for bureaucracy sprinkled throughout its focus on some sociopathic American ideals like our willingness to do just about anything to get ahead. This one really stuck with me afterwards and I’m looking forward to revisiting some of its more spoilery ideas in next weeks column.
Do you have a favorite line? After Rea’s character starts yelling and honking the horn of the car in attempts to get help, Suvari comes into the garage and says “Why are you doing this to me?” It’s a shocking line, yet completely in character with her mind state and with the themes of responsibility and apathy prevalent throughout the film.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? I knew this was based on a true story, but I didn’t know that (in the real story) the homeless man bled out and died in the windshield and then the woman driving bragged to a co-worker that she killed a white man. It’s amazing to me that the reality can be so much more monstrous than the fiction. Yes, Suvari’s character does horrible things, but I never thought it was something she was proud of and would brag about. People suck.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Edmond (one of William H. Macy’s best performances. It’s Stuart Gordon directing a David Mamet script! Do you need more?), The Perfect Witness (I always thought the cover was too much of a rip off of the cover to Mute Witness, so I silently boycotted watching this), Love Object (been in my queue for years), Senseless (also been in my queue for years) and Alexandra’s Project (heard good things about this while I was reviewing Red Road).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? If you’re not too familiar with Stuart Gordon, I’d start at Re-Animator and rock his entire filmography. Even his worst still has interesting things to offer. Or at least some entertainment to be had.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.0
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 3.4
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? If I had to find a complaint about the movie it would be the final few seconds. I felt like the movie could have used one more scene after the final one to crystallize the things it was trying to say, but instead it ends abruptly without style or flair.
Did you watch anything else this week? I’m re-watching the second and third Pirates (Depp version not porn version) movies before watching the 4th one. I know everyone hates it, but I still have to see it. Also been watching a lot of Enterprise while going through the Star Trek series and movies chronologically. Does Scott Bakula’s Commander Archer remind anyone else of George W. Bush?
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, Yellowbrickroad? You know, the more I sit with this one the more conflicted I am about it. I still think the tone it creates and the tension it builds are fantastic and make for one of the most unsettling horror movie watching experiences I had last year, but that ending really shits the bed. For the evil Yellowbrickroad to end at a movie theater that the main character sits in and watches disturbing images of his lady friend bloody and in hell (or whatever) seems really cheap and short sighted. Something much quieter and more ambiguous would have would immeasurable better, or at least something that didn’t feel like the exact ending of In the Mouth of Madness. I still feel like the good outweighs the bad, but the bad managed to stick with me a lot longer than the good did.
Next Week? Cold Weather? I’m an Oregonian, so a Portland movie sounds mighty nice to me, but it’s up to you folks. Also, if you enjoy the column, your Facebook “likes” really help us out over here, so if you could click on the button at the top I’ll owe you one.