I have a funny and embarrassing story involving this film. I watched this whole movie believing Elle Fanning was in this and not Dakota. I got the sisters mixed up the whole time. Another embarrassing thing happened; I realized Elle and Dakota Fanning are sisters! So yeah, hopefully that’s my last film-related embarrassment of the year.
Please Stand By starts with a narration by Wendy (Fannin) that’s a callback to the opening of Star Trek. Her character is odd and distant, especially with regards to human interactions. She talks in a bizarre fashion: somewhat robotic and somewhat like a typewriter or voice you hear giving directions. We later discover she’s autistic and lives in a group home where she is managed by her caregiver (Toni Collette). Wendy living in this home puts a financial and mental strain on her older sister Audrey (Alice Eve). Wendy is a hardcore Star Trek fan to the point she wrote a 450 page Star Trek script in an attempt to win a screenwriting contest. The younger sister thinks her Star Trek script can save the family and let her go home if it succeeds, but it is clear she needs help. We later discover “please stand by” is a phrase used to calm Wendy down when she has one of her fits.
There is great potential in Please Stand By, but watching it is frustrating. The most interesting thing about this film is how a mentally unstable girl who loves Star Trek manages to run away and travel to L.A. Her behavior is alien to those she encounters, and often times she makes note of typical things we take for granted. If it wasn’t for her condition this would be more humorous, but I can’t help but feel sadness. As she is traveling to L.A., she gets robbed by a couple, but her concern is more about her notebook, which helps her stay calm and organized.
Unfortunately, once she begins her trip, the film dips into a safe territory and fails to utilize everything that makes it unique. We get the cliché life lessons from strangers, and the caretakers of course bond over their memories of Wendy. Collette might as well be played by an acting student, because she did nothing for the film. I felt like they could have tied her character’s subplot with Wendy but they didn’t. So, yes, the ending is nice and lovely, but I do wish the middle of the film wasn’t a slog to venture through.
Please Stand By starts with a unique premise, but ultimately becomes a tale we have watched numerous times before. There are are some great moments in the film, one of which involves Wendy and Audrey, but the keyword should be moments.