Directed by: Ben Lewin
Premise: A young woman with autism (Dakota Fanning) writes a Star Trek screenplay for entry in a studio sponsored contest. She absconds from her group home and travels across the country to hand deliver the script with her family and caregivers in pursuit.
What Works: Please Stand By is simultaneously a story about fandom but also about the points in which life and art overlap. The story centers upon Wendy, an autistic young woman with an intense love of Star Trek. She has written a script for a screenwriting contest and her story is steeped in the lore of the series but also reflects Wendy’s own difficult family situation. Her mother has died and her sister is unable to give Wendy the care she needs so she lives in a group home where her everyday activities are managed. With the contest deadline approaching, Wendy goes off to Hollywood to deliver the script and in the process she gets into a series of misadventures, some good and others terrible. Wendy is played by Dakota Fanning and the actress does a great job of portraying this woman with autism. Movies sometimes portray people with these conditions as mechanisms of redemption for caregivers or as burdens to society. Please Stand By makes it clear that Wendy is a person with her own dreams and ticks and flaws. She is a whole character and the film does not condescend to her or to the audience. Please Stand By also captures the passionate love that so many people have for Star Trek and Wendy’s journey reflects the spirit of exploration and adventure of the classic Star Trek series. The filmmakers show a fondness for the material; they don’t ridicule the passion but rather embrace it (and its quirkiness) and ultimately show how fandom connects people from different backgrounds and transcends all sorts of differences including autism.
What Doesn’t: There are a lot of plot points in Please Stand By that are, at best, unlikely. The film is about a young woman who is not so worldly wise fending for herself and the storytellers clearly have an optimistic view of humanity which is in keeping with the themes of the original Star Trek. How viewers feel about Please Stand By will partly be determined by the degree to which they accept Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision of human potential; the filmmakers of Please Stand By clearly accept it and much of the movie’s charm is in its suborn hopefulness. But this story relies a lot on good will and coincidences.
DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette, and a trailer.
Bottom Line: Please Stand By is a nice film that ought to play for mainstream audiences and Star Trek fans alike. The story relies a little too heavily upon chance but it is a charming film that captures the love and passion of fandom and how stories can help us cope with real life problems.
Episode: #747 (April 28, 2019)