Please Stand By Review – Unexpectedly Charming, Uplifting, A Trekki Fan Finds Hope and Courage

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Please Stand By, from Magnolia Pictures, presents the story of an functional autistic girl obsessed with Star Trek who decides to enter the script writing contest and her journey to make the deadline despite her beliefs of limitation.

Directed by Ben Lewin, Please Stand By stars Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette, Alice Eve, River Alexander, Marla Gibbs, Jessica Rothe, and Michael Stahl-David and was written by Michael Golamco.

The film begins in San Francisco, in an assisted living facility for functioning Autistic adults which is where we meet Scottie, played by Toni Collette, a social worker who handles the day to day operations, overseeing the development and progress of the residents.

Her methods of communication to each one we see they are unusual and methodical, a pattern of behavior. As the camera pans through the home we see stages of development issues, with all able to cope and manage the stress of living with others, male and female, in a group setting.

We meet Wendy, played by Dakota Fanning, as she is writing a script. With both her parents dead, her only living relative is her sister, Audrey, played by Alice Eve, who lives close, is recently married with a new baby.

Wendy explains to the audience, in voice over, her daily life routines. She is never, under any circumstances, to cross Market Street. She is best served when she writes down pieces of information in a note book she wears on a decorative cloth lanyard.

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Wendy is a Trekki geek. At her mall job as a Cinnabon server, she is the food court Queen of Trek with encyclopedic knowledge and memory of all things, fact and fiction about Star Trek and earns extra cash everyday as local geeks, who believe they can outwit her, step up only to walk away dejected and with empty pockets.

As we progress through the film we meet Audrey, who explains in flashbacks the early stages of Wendy’s autism. Now, here, today, Wendy and Audrey are visiting at the house. Each of the two have a preconceived idea how this will go, as Audrey and her husband are planning to move away from San Francisco for his job, and Wendy is determined to win the Star Trek Screenwriting contest and with the money will be able to live with her without being a burden.

The meeting dissolves into chaos with Wendy breaking down and reverting to anti-social behaviors. This is a pivotal scene as Dakota Fanning is convincing in her collapse.

The family reunion and expectation of reunification comes days before the script is due. Suddenly, after a day of withdrawal, she snaps back realizing the post offices are closed for a Monday holiday, unless she hand delivers the script to Paramount Pictures she’ll miss the deadline.

With the few dollars she earned from her job, she packs up her screenplay, a few sandwiches and heads out beginning her journey of empowerment.

Please Stand By, an indie film, is a showcase film for leads Dakota Fanning and Toni Collette. This film allows the audience to come along on a journey into the daily lives of a community where true portrayals in film can be listed on one hand.

Ms. Fanning has risen to the challenges of authenticity and really made this character her own, with all its eccentricities, needs, challenges and innocence.

Ms. Collette, as the Social Worker, nailed her role as the caring, although preoccupied single mom, and only sees the advances Wendy has made once she goes missing. The writing, which the Social Worker saw as an diversion activity, a calming mechanism in care, became a solid foundation as others were able to see the work without knowing the author.

The well-developed story creates clear and defined character arc’s. The journey of discovery and self-examination fills the screen as the road is genuinely a dangerous place, and the challenges to achieves ones goals, even without the obvious trials incorporated in this film, are often wrought with pitfalls, setbacks, bumps and bruises even with those who are less than a pure trusting soul.

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Pay special attention to the LAPD scenes. In an uncredited role, Officer Frank, become the hero of the day. Household residents in were portrayed, when possible, by autistic actors.

A heartwarming film, Please Stand By is an authentic portrayal of life for those affected with autism, their families and the hope and courage necessary and unorthodox methods of communicating and building trust.

With notable performances and a solid story, Please Stand By is an uplifting and encouraging box office choice.

Magnolia Pictures presents Please Stand By in theaters everywhere January 26, 2018.

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