Stuck on a plane to NYC, I watched a screener of Tribeca entry, “Stuck Between Stations” (which premieres tonight). I wouldn’t have ever thought that I’d write about it, but I jotted down some thoughts because I think the film actually deserves some recognition, and to be honest, without internet access, I had little else to do. And given the less-than-optimum viewing conditions, maybe that’s even more reason to give the movie some credit.
Bad title notwithstanding, “Stuck Between Stations” isn’t half-bad. I am not one for boy-meets-girl American indies, but there is a specificity to the script and a credibility and likeability to the central performances that kept me engaged. I didn’t know Zoe Lister Jones and Sam Rosen (both seen in “Breaking Upwards”) before seeing the movie; but I’d like to see more of them. They’re both refreshingly relaxed on screen and easy on the eyes, not unlike the film’s most obvious reference point, Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” of which it shares its single-night promise of romantic connection, coming-of-age and early morning revelations.
Strangely, I couldn’t help but think about some totally unrelated films, too, like Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters,” which generated a lot of press for its computer-generated effects, but whose romantic couple had all the chemistry and charisma as an empty green screen. If only Edwards had these writers and actors, that film could been as good as people seemed to think it was. Similarly, the much-heralded “Crazy Love,” whose characters I found to be utterly superficial and flat as boards, could have severely benefited from Linklater’s tutelage.
Even though Zoe and Sam’s characters are cut from longstanding screwball rom-com conventions – pretty, literate upper-class girl vs spontaneous, affable lower-class boy – the screenwriters (first-timers Rosen and Nat Bennett) manage to make them come alive with vivid back-stories that slowly, carefully unravel as the film progresses. Their journey into the Minneapolis night—filled with funky oases and oddities, from a circus party to a Public Access TV station–functions somewhat as a hipster love letter to the city. (I must admit this got me thinking of Aaron Katz’s Portland ode “Cold Weather”).
That’s not to say that “Stuck” is great cinema or particularly unique, but it’s genuine, thoughtful, has flashes of urban beauty, and it’s politically and socially aware in a way that isn’t overbaked, and except for a few twee moments—please cut out the slow-motion—the film shows some solid promise.