October 28, 2005

Stay

Directed by Marc Forster
Starring Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

Stay is like a second-rate Bruce Willis flick minus Bruce Willis, with a necro-psychobabblish plot redolent of both The Sixth Sense and Color of Night. The difference is that Stay has already spoiled its own supposed twist ending with the tagline on its poster: "Between the worlds of the living and the dead there is a place you're not supposed to stay." Hey, thanks for the heads up.

In this entire-life-flashing-before-the-eyes limbo we find the incongruous figure of psychiatrist Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) and his patient Henry (Ryan Gosling, as yet another deranged lad), who threatens to kill himself on his 21st birthday. Having already intervened in the suicide attempt of his patient-turned-girlfriend Lila (Naomi Watts), Sam naturally wants to do the same for Henry. He visits a blind psychiatrist (Bob Hoskins) who might be Henry's deceased father, a student/waitress (Elizabeth Reaser) who might be his love interest, his former shrink (Janeane Garofalo, nearly unrecognizable as a blonde) who might be going nuts, and his dead mother (Kate Burton) who might very well be still alive. The mystery is, just precisely which one of them is seeing dead people.

Sam's various encounters prove to be fruitless both for him and for the poor mortal souls who've paid money to watch this. The subplots simply don't add up, and there's very little scare or thrill in this alleged psychological thriller. David Benioff's screenplay is suspiciously similar to that lame 2001 horror flick Soul Survivors, which takes place within a character's comatose mind after a life-threatening car crash. But Stay is even more absurd for the fact that its protagonist is not the person experiencing the hallucinatory visions that make up the bulk of its narrative. The climactic gotcha moment here is likely to irritate rather than awe.

Marc Forster - director of the equally ridiculous Monster's Ball and Finding Neverland - here employs many incoherent stylistic strategies to hammer home the point that the film does not literally take place within its own cinematic reality. Each scene digitally morphs into the next, √† la the music video of “Livin’ La Vida Loca”. There are various inexplicable effects, such as when groups of twins and triplets are walking together wearing matching outfits. The scenes are frequently intercut with alternate takes replaying the same actions, or even with different actors repeating the same lines, in a futile attempt to duplicate that same creepy disorientation achieved by the cursed video in The Ring. Forster's visual and audio gimmickries don't necessarily reveal anything about the murky state between life and death. Instead, these superficial touches merely distract viewers from the fact that this scam of a film really makes almost no sense at all.

Good luck stay-ing through its 99 minutes without wanting to play in traffic afterwards.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2005 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.