Drew Barrymore and Drew Barrymore switching places with herself
THE STAND IN (2020)
It's become apparent that when you have the center focus of a film be the same actor performing two separate characters on screen at the same time, it can either go spectacularly (Armie Hammer, The Social Network) or tragically bad (Adam Sandler, Jack and Jill). Unfortunately for The Stand In, Drew Barrymore playing two characters on screen together for a number of scenes leans dangerously towards the not favorable option.
Director Jamie Babbit has 76 (as of 12/11/20) directing credits to her name, with a majority of them being an episode here and there of numerous television series since 1999; with Babbit crossing over into feature films only a handful of times. I’ve seen plenty of Babbit’s television work without ever realizing it, but never a film, so while her television presence is incredibly competent, her work in The Stand In is choppily edited and overly forgettable. Dark, ugly color tones consume the feature, making myself unsure if the filmmaker was trying to make the world seem darker or if it was simply color graded poorly. From an eye rolling premise that feels like it’s trapped in the 90s to the uneven editing making it difficult to care about any of the progression on screen, we are left with a film that seems to be trying to send a message in its final moments but ultimately is muted out by all the noise happening around it.
The Stand In follows Candy, an actress that’s lost her passion for the art, temporarily trading places with her longtime stand-in, Paula, in order to pursue other dreams. As the selfish Candy takes a step back after having her stand in go through rehab and go on an apology tour in her place, her control over how much she can remain being Candy in the public eye begins to dwindle. This alone could have made for any interesting story, but it’s the fault of the screenwriter, Sam Bain, for making it go too far in the wrong direction. Within this plot, we are forced to sit through a romance which is something that personally hindered the film from having any potential success. The plot had a recognizable charm to it, but quickly became hard to watch once it chose to dive in and out of different stories; with Paula (as Candy) going to rehab taking almost no time at all, the film felt rushed from the start.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Drew Barrymore is listed twice on the poster and in the trailer, meaning that she plays two of the most prominent characters in the film, and that is not to the audience’s benefit. Now that’s not me saying that Barrymore is a bad actor, and in fact I think she’s far from it, as her roles in E.T., 50 First Dates, and The Santa Clarita Diet are iconic. However the same can be said for the type of actor Adam Sandler is, that when given the proper material (50 First Dates, Punch Drunk Love, and Uncut Gems) he can produce a truly memorable experience. Michael Zegan, TJ Miller, Holland Taylor, Michelle Buteau, Andrew Rannells, and Elle Kemper make up the rest of the cast, and their participation varies in size, from some feeling like a supporting role for a few minutes to a cameo the next. This is Barrymore’s movie; the cast is barebones, with her back and forth between herself attributing to 95% of the character development. This wouldn’t be a troublesome scenario if either of Barrymore’s characters were likable in the slightest; we are given two characters that make the entire film hard to bear.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
To put it bluntly, The Stand In isn’t a pleasant film to look at. It falls into a mental rabbit hole of a filmmaker who has been trying to get this film made for years upon years and wound up finally releasing it in the 2020s. (This isn’t a confirmed situation, but the film makes it seem this way). There’s a very Tommy Wiseau’s The Room vibe to the visuals, feeling like a film that thought it was ultimately much smarter than it was and with a director that is unable to produce anything worthy out of a lacking script from Bain. There’s just something externally wrong about the film that makes it feel instantly outdated, and obviously that’s not something you want to hear about a film just now being released.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Composer Daniel Wohl produces a shrug of a score, lacking boldness the entire way through and simulating something that could be directly recycled from your average TV movie. There’s not enough emotion present, and the end result is an inelegant white noise.
The Stand In is exactly what the trailer promised: Drew Barrymore and Drew Barrymore switching places with herself. There’s not enough there to maintain anyone’s attention for the drawn out 101 minute runtime. What felt like a semi-clever short, or even a commercial premise, is unnaturally extended into a feature length “comedy,” winding up being a major mistake for everyone involved while lacking originality and comedic timing.