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Stay (2005)

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 10/20/05 23:57:15

"The only real mystery-what are McGregor and Watts doing in this crap?"
1 stars (Sucks)

“Stay” is kind of like one of those old “Twilight Zone” episodes that didn’t go down as a classic–it tells a not-particularly-interesting story that basically does nothing but tread water until it is time to deploy the less-than-shocking twist ending. The difference is that those old episodes usually only lasted about 22 minutes so even if you could figure out exactly where it was going, it wasn’t as if you were making a major commitment in watching it and if the payoff wasn’t worth it, it was easy enough to shrug off. “Stay,” on the other hand, is more than four times longer than one of those episodes and that means that there is essentially four times as much padding before an equally predictable finale–at a certain point, you just want to stand up in your seat and shout, a la “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “GET ON WITH IT!”

Ewan McGregor stars as Sam Foster, a hot-shot shrink who agrees to take over the case of patient Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling) while his regular doctor takes some time off. Henry is an angsty artist and college student and announces during their first meeting that he plans on killing himself at midnight on Saturday. While delving deeper into Henry’s case in order to help him, Sam begins to discover some odd and unsettling things. Henry claims that both of his parents are dead and yet Sam meets each of them on two separate occasions. Events in his life seem to be repeating themselves–he keeps running into the same group of piano movers lifting the same piano into the air. Most intriguingly, it appears that Henry has developed an ability to predict the future–he knows what people are going to say and is able to look at a perfectly sunny day and correctly predict a hailstorm. Things get so strange of Sam that he begins to question his own sanity as well.

As I have suggested, all of this is leading up to a ginormous last-minute plot twist that is meant to force us to re-examine everything that we have seen up to that point. The problem is that the twist is a.) not particularly original (I could name at least two specific films that it blatantly steals from but to do so would wreak the reveal) and b.) not very interesting. In fact, it is so obvious that for a while, you begin to suspect that screenwriter David Benioff knows how hackneyed it is and is lulling us into a state of complacency before springing his real twist on us. Unfortunately, it plods along to its grimly predictable conclusion in an almost ritualistic manner. (If Benioff had to write a script that is apparently inspired by the works of M. Night Shyamalan, did he have to use “The Village” as a basis?) To be fair, he does make an attempt to distract from the inevitable conclusion through the manner in which he tells the story but the problem with that is that it is nothing more than a cheat designed to throw viewers off the trail and I suspect that it will inspire nothing but frustration and anger in anyone who manages to stick it out until the end.

The only real mystery in “Stay” is how so many talented people somehow got suckered into taking part in it. McGregor and Gosling are both strong actors but they do nothing but provide weak variations on roles they have already played and Naomi Watts (who appears as Sam’s once-suicidal girlfriend) is completely wasted in a role that gives her nothing to do–the kind of thing that she was stuck in before “Mulholland Drive” resurrected her career. Even smaller roles, the kind that could have easily been done by day players, are filled with the wasted likes of Bob Hoskins and Janeane Garofalo. Behind the scenes, Marc Forster, the director of “Monster’s Ball” and “Finding Neverland,: tries to liven things up with any number of visual tricks. Some of them work (the transitions between scenes and locations have a nicely hallucinogenic quality) and some of them don’t (many scenes have groups of identically-dressed twins in the background for no explainable reason) but they do noting more than transform a lousy movie into a lousy movie with some interesting visual moments.

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