The Stand In

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

The Stand In
dir Jamie Babbit
scr Sam Bain
prd Tom McNulty, Caddy Vanasirikul, Brian O'Shea, Ember Truesdell, Chris Miller
with Drew Barrymore, Michael Zegen, TJ Miller, Holland Taylor, Ellie Kemper, Andrew Rannells, Michelle Buteau, Sara Jes Austell, Charlie Barnett, Richard Kind, Murray Bartlett, Lena Dunham
release US 11.Dec.20
20/US 1h41

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barrymore and barrymore
More sophisticated than it looks, this comedy takes the tropes of the raucous gross-out movie and twists them into an engaging and refreshingly offbeat rom-com. Director Jamie Babbit also avoids cheap jokes even while packing scenes with witty cameos. The movie might not be sparky enough for viewers expecting something more outrageous, but it has some real depth. And it gives Drew Barrymore two juicy roles to play with.
After becoming a superstar making slapstick comedies, Candy (Barrymore) has an on-set diva meltdown and loses her career, turning into a recluse in her vast mansion. Five years later, she calls her out-of-work stunt double Paula (also Barrymore), who performed all of her famed pratfalls, and makes a proposal: that Paula attend court-ordered rehab for her. Paula's one condition is that Candy makes another movie with her. But Candy is enjoying life outside the spotlight, hoping to meet Steve (Zegen), a fellow carpenter on a woodworking website. So Paula throws a wrench into Candy's plan.
As Candy continues making furniture in private, Paula slowly steals Candy's career, and Steve too. Paula's pretence at naivete fools everyone, from Candy to her agent (Miller), filmmakers, costars and the media. While it's easy for Paula to become the public-facing Candy, the script dangles Steve as the other shoe that will have to drop at some point. This provides underlying tension, especially as Paula's plotting shifts up a few gears. Where the story goes is genuinely smart, funny and surprising. It's also bracingly honest about the emptiness of stardom.

Barrymore has a ball in these two roles: the grumpy-frumpy Candy and the perky sociopath Paula. The film's makeup and hair team work wonders to give each woman some distinctive features. And Barrymore finds intriguing edges to each of them, especially coming to life when they square off against both each other and those in Candy's orbit. A flurry of amusing side characters provides plenty of colourful energy for her to play against.

The script knowingly explores the ways we present alter-egos to the world, such as on social media. Sam Bain's script has a lot to say about seeing people for who they are rather than any image that precedes them. And there's a remarkable argument between Candy and Paula about the nature and responsibilities of fame in an industry that's entirely fake. So the more important reminder is that the only way to find true happiness is to play yourself with honesty.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.Dec.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall