Drew Barrymore2 Not Enough to Make The Stand In Stand Out
After an on-set drunken meltdown culminates in a horrific eye injury to a fellow actress (Ellie Kemper) goes viral, Hollywood A-list comedian Candy Black’s (Drew Barrymore) career face-plants into the gutter. Five years later the actress is a disheveled, moderately agoraphobic homebody who has fallen in love with a fellow Shaker woodworking enthusiast Steve (Michael Zegen) she met online. She’s putting her days as a movie star behind her, hoping to move forward outside of the spotlight.
Not wanting to put her quickly blossoming relationship with Steve in jeopardy, Candy hires her former stand-in Paula (also Barrymore) to take her place serving a 90-day sentence in rehab. While there, the faux version of the actress vaults back into the public consciousness thanks to showing a level of sincere contrition that tugs on the public heartstrings. Never one to pass up a few easy bucks, the comedy superstar’s former manager Louis (TJ Miller) convinces his client to embark on an “apology tour” of the talk show circuit, not realizing it’s Paula soaking in the adulation and not Candy.
Hollywood satire The Stand In is one of those films I wish I liked more than I actually do. While Barrymore throws herself into her dual roles with enthusiastic aplomb, this is a sluggish, brazenly unlikeable comedy-drama hybrid that’s one of the year’s more disappointing failures. Other than a few nice ideas, Sam Bain’s (Four Lions) script is shockingly unsubtle and frequently lazy, showcasing none of the risk-taking wit I kept hoping there would be.
Director Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader) is a good filmmaker, and her comedic sensibilities are second to none. But there’s no energy or life to this production. Many of the gags fall unceremoniously flat, while a number of the more prescient satirical observations are too obvious to have a lasting impact. It all boils down to a mundane variation on “be careful what you wish for,” and if there was anything more profound or deeper than that frankly I didn’t see it.
There’s a great restaurant scene between Barrymore and Zegen where the former, as Paula pretending to be Candy, has to fake her way through woodworking conversations with Steve. He’s of course gobsmacked to realize the woman he’s been conversing with about various forms of Shaker furniture-making methodology is a world-famous comedy actress known for her acrobatic pratfalls and potty mouth. Paula, meanwhile, is so consumed with transforming herself into her employer she has no issue trying to steal Candy’s potential boyfriend, sinking deeper and deeper into a faux persona that will undoubtedly consume her if left unchecked.
Honestly, though, that’s about it as far as highpoints go. The drama between Candy and Paula goes exactly where I expected it to, and even with Barrymore’s Hollywood connections allowing the production to manufacture an aura of authenticity it otherwise would not have been able to achieve, this film is a waste of time. It moves through the motions with a plodding laboriousness that grows increasingly irritating, and almost all of the supporting players are never around long enough to make anything more than a passing impression.
Barrymore does do a fine job creating two distinctively different characters, both Candy and Paula having their own vocal inflections, body language and interior emotional life. But while I applaud the film’s refusal to judge either woman for their actions, that doesn’t make either all that much fun to be around for more than a few moments. Some of Candy’s later scenes, notably one near the end where she speaks with a woman at a construction site, are effective and do hint at a level of depth the overall picture never attains, but those are noticeably infrequent and only made me more frustrated as I kept imagining what might have been.
The Stand In is far from terrible (Miller’s odious presence notwithstanding). Barrymore is good in both her roles, and there are a few hearty laughs sprinkled throughout. But the message is rote and uninspired. The drama is lifeless and without emotion. The ending is so forgone it’s immediately forgettable. Spending 100 minutes with these characters wasn’t worth the effort, and while I appreciate the attempt the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)