This post is a part of our New Voices Section.
Written by Richard Jack Smith.
It’s not a case of “to boldly go” anymore. We follow what we love. In the case of Star Trek, the path to becoming a Trekkie took longer than expected. Ever since boyhood, the films were shown regularly, and I ate them up like a kiddie holding the giant bowl of cereal. But what does it mean to be a fan? For some, it’s attending conventions, dressing up as a Vulcan or Klingon (perhaps even learning these languages). For me, buying the music from the original television series made such fandom complete. For Wendy (Dakota Fanning) in Please Stand By, her attention to detail makes all the difference. She’s a writer, eager to share her epic Star Trek screenplay in a contest soon to end in Los Angeles. Only days remain. Not enough time to send the manuscript by mail. What to do? Gathering her resources, she makes the long journey alone, not telling her guardian Scottie (Toni Collette) or worried sister Audrey (Alice Eve).
Does knowing what happens next, a novelty which can hurt even the most original film, affect Please Stand By? No because this one happens to be extremely well acted. I was super impressed by Dakota Fanning. As I watched the film, memories of her screechy turn in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds lingered like a floating memory bubble, but the actress in Please Stand By has totally transformed. She’s grown out of that incorrigible phase, and her talent allows the camera to share such an emotional journey.
Meanwhile, director Ben Lewin and writer Michael Golamco (adapting the latter’s play) tell a remarkable story. Any boundaries associated with autism are addressed intelligently and thoroughly. While progress may not happen overnight, recognising what’s difficult can allow big steps to be taken.
Yes, there’s stigma tied to autism. However, this was countered by sympathetic characters such as Scottie. The way Toni Collette plays her – calm, humorous, charming, inclusive – goes a long way towards showing how others might relate in these situations. A favourite scene involves Wendy hiding from two police officers, and the chubby one Frank (Patton Oswalt) can speak Klingon. This spoke volumes about the universal appeal behind Star Trek.
Elsewhere, Alice Eve delivers a lovely turn as Wendy’s big sister. She’s worried that the world might be too big and demanding for someone who desires routine and easy access. Ultimately, this segment of the story was handled in a satisfying manner.
Above all, Dakota Fanning delivers the performance of her career, and she definitely left her hard work on the big screen.
Richard Jack Smith holds a BA Honours Degree in Professional Media Practice from University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. Movies and soundtracks are his main interests, so he contributes regular reviews, articles and poetry to Betty Jo Tucker’s website, ReelTalk Movie Reviews. His favourite film is King Kong (1933). Originally from London England, Richard currently resides in Wales. He is the author of three books and you can follow his work in the links below:
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