15 October 2008 | tawdry_hepburn
THE FILM Stuck is a confusing film. On the one hand, the film plays as a deliciously nasty piece of black comedy, piling inhumanity on top of inhumanity and coating it all with sanguine and self-immolation. On the other hand, I have been assured by an industry friend that the film is not a comedy at all, but rather a profoundly confused wouldbe thriller full of inexcusable racist stereotypes. As the DVD has nothing in the way of special features, I have no way of knowing what Auteur/infant terrible Stuart Gordon actually had in mind.
The premise is ripped straight from the strange-but-true headlines. A nurse hits a homeless man while driving drunk. She hits him so hard that he ends up lodged in her windshield. Instead of taking the man to a hospital, she drives home, leaving the man to bleed to death in her garage while she goes inside and has sex with her boyfriend.
Gordon's take on the story follows the real world events quite loosely, changing most everything after the initial crash. In reality, the man died 2 hours after being hit. Here he goes through days of misadventures.
These changes are a point of contention for many. In real life the victim was white and the killer was black. In the film, the victim is white and the killer is a white-trash Caucasian who can easily be read as an extremely stereotyped black woman who has simply been bleached.
And this is where things get confusing. Everyone in the film is stereotyped. There is a "magic negro" who is so broad that even Steven King might find it offensive. A completely subordinate black best friend. Side-of-a-barn cruel police officers. An illegal immigrant family fueled by foolish machismo. An effete gay man walking a fluffy dog. A drug dealing, gun toting, cheating black boyfriend. Helpless, brain dead elderly. And, at the center of it all, a perfect example of "the noble poor." The acting from Stephen Rea and Mena Suvari (who also acts as producer) is quite good but the writing is either totally incompetent or brilliantly subversive.
Many of the elements are incongruous. And, considering that Gordon's last film was the vastly underrated Edmond* I am inclined to believe that the film is intended to be funny. I know I laughed a lot. But, at this same time, it is entirely possible that the film is inadvertently hilarious. The whole thing is very ambiguous if you don't know Gordon's filmography.
And perhaps, it is this very tension that makes the movie worthwhile. It's a horrifically mean spirited film. So dark that it makes Very Bad Things look like Adams Family Values. This bleakness is perhaps confusing some people to the larger social context of the film.
Ultimately, in my mind, the film is a character study about a woman who selflessly works for rich white folks all day and engages in black culture all night. This internal tension makes her a type of Uncle Tom, regardless of her actual skin pigment. The film is about how good people are capable of evil and about how we are all culpable for the crimes of those we look down on.
I've always been a Stuart Gordon fan and this film cements his status for me. Unlike most filmmakers, who cool with time Gordon is on fire. His last 3 films** might well be the best of his entire career. I can't wait to see what he does next.
DVD: There are no special features, but the picture is reasonably clean and the menus are nice. I love Gordon's commentary tracks. It is sorely missed here.
CONCLUSION: Stuck is not a film for everyone. Many will find it too grisly and mean spirited. Others might even find it racist. But, for a select few, the film is a hilariously painful piece of social commentary schadenfreude. A theater of cruelty, but a brilliant one.
The very fact that I can see how someone might be horribly offended, but also find it to mean the exact opposite is enough reason to recommend the film. A movie to watch and discuss over coffee.
FILM: A- DVD: D+
*In my mind the best David Mamet adaptation to date. ** King of Ants, Edmond, Stuck