Movie of the Day – Stay
April 8, 2012 1 Comment
With a 26% rating on RottenTomatoes.com, Stay is really an enigma of a film. On the outset, I should be hating a film that is flat on the story even when it tries and fails spectacularly to be deep and mind bending. I should know better not to get tripped up in a film that relies on its laurels of visuals and trippy, factured narrative. Maybe I enjoy the film for the cast of incredible talent and Mr. Baby Goose himself, Ryan Gosling. The more I reflect on the film and the more I watch it, I find myself being sucked into the film itself, almost too David Lynchian in it’s appearance and structure. Damn my love of David Lynch.
A man struggling to save the life of another finds himself drawn into a strange netherworld he didn’t know existed in this stylish thriller. Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) is a psychiatrist living in New York City with his girlfriend, Lila Culpepper (Naomi Watts), who was once one of his patients. However, it’s another one of his patients who becomes the focus of his obsessions when Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling), a disturbed young man whom Foster took over from a colleague, announces during a session that he intends to commit suicide in three days, on his 21st birthday. Sam takes the threat quite seriously and tries to track down Henry, who seems to have disappeared. Sam speaks to a number of Henry’s friends and acquaintances — his mother (Kate Burton), the man he claimed was his father, Dr. Leon Patterson (Bob Hoskins), a waitress who regularly served Henry at the coffee shop where she works (Elizabeth Reaser), and his former therapist Dr. Beth Levy (Janeane Garofalo). As Sam talks to people in Henry’s circle, he finds he’s learning more about himself than the man he’s supposed to save, and he begins to drift into an emotional netherworld where the supposedly dead and the living cross paths. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
I will be the first to admit that this isn’t a terribly strong, narrative film. Just reading the synopsis of the film kind of makes it seem like it is shooting for something more than it is and the story does suffer with overt, intricate plot of the narrative. For what it’s worth though, Stay does attempt to dive into the deep recesses of understanding life, death, reality and the afterlife, seemingly drifting between each thematic element with a visual panache that blurs the line between the story structure and each element. Not a bad thing, but it doesn’t really help the film out.
Stay is a grandiose film, one that attempts to tie everything together from the story line and the psychological play on the characters and audience. To fully grasp the concept of the film, the intricate visuals is what will guide you through the story. My first viewing was a confusing one to say the least, but upon subsequent viewings, the little anachronisms and visual tricks start to unfold a bit more. It doesn’t fully explain the film but gives us a pointer in what we should be looking at and trying to understand. That is where the strength of the film lies. If you view it once, you will dismiss it as being a too far reaching film with engaging visuals. But repeat viewings, difficult as they may be, will yield a bit more of the story and understanding the ending of the film.
Director Marc Foster managed to capture the attention of the viewer with a pleasing visual experience that holds a lot of the explanations we seek in understanding the film, but it isn’t directly given to us. As a film going audience we will inherently want it all spelled out for us, but we will have to work a bit more for an answer. The performances are strong from the well cast film, but the story itself just gets lost in the visuals which doesn’t allow for an easy connection to be made. I think the ride you take in the film is entertaining enough to warrant an additional view, which definitely helps with the understanding of the film.