by Hope Madden
Don’t be off put by the hashtag in #Stuck. Writer/director Stuart Acher’s film is less a glib comment on social media alienation and more a savvy reimagining of the romantic comedy.
Holly (Madeline Zima) and Guy (Joel David Moore) are stuck in an epic traffic jam. To make matters worse, this is simply the “morning after” ride back to Holly’s car, which is still at the bar where the two hooked up the night before.
“It’s easier to have sex with a stranger than make conversation with one,” notes Holly early in their uncomfortable alone time.
On its surface, the script feels almost like a writing workshop challenge, but Archer’s assured direction and game performances from the two leads make it work. Acher’s story weaves from the shame and claustrophobia of the morning after to the drunken debauchery of the night before.
The flashback is told in reverse order, allowing us to learn more about the two based on what they’ve forgotten, just as they learn about each other based on the time each must now spend in the other’s company.
It’s hard to sustain interest with little more than in-car acting – unless you have Tom Hardy behind the wheel – and there are certainly times when #Stuck strains to keep your attention. But on the whole, the slow revelation of character feels natural and the performances are sympathetic enough to keep you invested.
Zima has a real Meg Ryan quality about her, which may make the film feel more like an outright romantic comedy than it would otherwise. She and Moore have an uneasy chemistry that suits the begrudgingly burgeoning relationship, and while their banter is never a laugh riot, more often than not it’s bright and enjoyable.
To alleviate the tension for the audience, anyway, Acher’s camera periodically swings out of Guy’s car and takes a peek at the goings on in the other cars sitting motionless on the LA freeway. It’s a fun distraction and a light handed way of underscoring the overall theme of the film: that often, time wasted is more valuable than time spent on task.