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Stuck (2007)

by on 2013/03/04

Stuck (2007)

“Why are you doing this to me?”

* * *

I found this video in a bargain bin, in yet another dying Zeller’s. Though tiny, the little “Canada” logo jumped out and I immediately grabbed it, then forgot about it again for a very long time.

Stuck is another piece advertised as “inspired by true events” but don’t hold that against it. It takes liberties with the original case to make it both more disturbing and satisfying.

Mena Suvari (of the American Pie series) stars as Brandi, an attendant working at Silver Cedars, a nursing home in Providence (actually shot in Saint John, New Brunswick). One night she has a car accident, seriously harming Thomas (Stephen Rea of V for Vendetta), a struggling businessman who is down on his luck. Rather than bring him for medical attention, she imprisons him in her garage.

Wrenching anguish ensues.

My first reaction was anguish for all the wrong reasons. Everything looked and felt cheap, and not in an “indie grit” way. I disliked the fish-eye lensing and too-close framing of shots. I despised the juxtaposition of hard rap laid over a montage of seniors. Fortunately, the majority of my complaints eventually earned a pay-off.

Little time is wasted in trotting out some familiar faces. A particularly difficult patient is the late, beloved Wayne Robson. Thomas’ employment worker is Sunshine Sketches’ Patrick McKenna. A nosy cabbie is Trailer Park Boys’ John Dunsworth. Their presence actually helped me keep on when the story tested my fortitude.

You see, it’s upsetting for so many reasons, not least in effective suspense. Accidents happen, things go wrong, and then they go even wronger (if you’ll excuse my linguistic abuse). Near-misses give us false hope, good people are pressured to do wrong, and others are irrational with panic or (apparently) mentally ill.

All the while, Thomas suffers in his slow, protracted fate, caught halfway through a hole in the windshield, unable to make much progress despite the struggles which bleed him out. For anyone averse to torture, this will not be a comfortable ride. Words like cringe-worthy, disturbing, twisted, and wince-inducing litter my viewing notes. If I feared “They wouldn’t go there, would they?” then they did. Whenever I thought “It can’t get any worse…” it did.

One critical piece was missing, however, and that was a sense of empathy. Ostensibly, Brandi’s the anti-hero, but she’s not nearly winning enough. Neither copious nudity nor the irony of her being a caretaker by profession is sufficient. Rarely did I feel any identification with her, any reason to excuse her toying with Thomas’ life. She’s not (just) a victim of circumstance and its complications, she’s unsympathetic, psychotic, in essence a villain.

The furthest she brought me to critical thought was to debate whether mental illness should exonerate its carrier from a comeuppance. For her part, she simply chooses to blame the victim, which sealed that deal for me.

A warning . . . the trailer gives an impression that this film is a dark comedy — and less “dark” than “comedy” at that — with its jaunty synth-surf muzak, tabloid-isms, and edits combining disparate lines to humorous effect. A truer guide to the tone of Stuck is probably Misery. If you find that prospect ha-ha funny, this probably isn’t the blog you’re looking for.

* * *

Rated 18A

85 minutes

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