I’m not going to deny how a certain amount of concentration is required for films in order to get a grasp of their ideas, but when I think of a film like Stay, the way I see it is that it feels more like a film that wants you to concentrate without necessarily earning any of it because it just presents emptiness all around. All I can ever pick up from every oddity arising from the manner to which Stay had been made only went on to annoy me more, because it never seemed justified. Instead, it struck me as Marc Forster attempting to ape on David Lynch’s style, and doing it so poorly to the point I’m just sitting there for every minute while it lasts reminding myself I would much rather be spending that time watching Mulholland Drive.
The outline of Stay is incredibly simple – we revolve around a doctor who has a “suicidal” new patient. They are played by Ewan McGregor and Ryan Gosling, respectively. Sam Foster, the McGregor character, decides to pay a visit to his patient’s mother, even though he claims he had murdered her. Soon Foster decides he will start playing detective as a means of preventing his new patient from killing himself. This outline is rather simple, as it could easily have flowed much like any other neo-noir, but soon things become even more convoluted to that point in which it is easy to lose interest in how everything is progressing.
When I end off there, I note how Stay is structured in such a nonsensical manner because apparently it’s a film that supposedly is dealing with death and the afterlife, but the biggest problem in regards to how the film decides to move on with what themes it wishes to handle is because it tends to flash them in your face far too much. If Stay ever wanted to be something thought-provoking, I would have at least wanted a much more subtle handling towards these themes because there was a specific point to which everything decides to come together and it’s all just so implausible. The profundity, or lack thereof, arises from how it appears so obvious from how the film is executed, therefore harming itself in the process.
From the surreal atmosphere that Marc Forster has incorporated, it’s easy to make a comparison to David Lynch but because of the quality of the script, the manner to which it comes off only feels as if it were just convoluted for the sake of convolution – as given how obvious the themes are with the film’s extremely heavy-handed delivery, Stay is at its core, a hollow film. And if things could never get all the more ridiculous with how it flows, the ending solidified my thoughts all the more as it starts to throw twist after twist, without leading to any proper sense of conclusion. I would not be shocked if Marc Forster took influence from David Lynch’s style of filmmaking but the poor handling makes everything come off as a bad ripoff rather than a subtle homage.
Performance-wise, the whole cast at least is recommendable. Naomi Watts was perhaps my first hint that Forster intended for a David Lynch-esque influence, especially when you remember how she had been brought to the spotlight because of Mulholland Drive. Ryan Gosling as always is great with the material that he has, and Ewan McGregor is satisfactory. Maybe the most shameful mistake from the film’s cast, however, would be the casting of Bob Hoskins in an incredibly expository role – given as his character only adds more superfluous exposition that ends up dragging the film all the more, and given his incredible talent, it’s saddening to see how terribly wasted he is in here.
There’s so much about Stay that one can admire but given how it is far too easy to piece together, the only feeling that ever really arises from it is nothing but emptiness. It’s already enough of a sin that the film mistakes by mistaking its convolution for profundity, especially with how obvious its themes are making itself out to be, but the only thing ever to arise is how it feels so much like it apes on what David Lynch is better off at handling, because if anything, this film feels more like some sort of bad copycat of his style. And given all of the talent that is involved, whether it be from the cast or the writer, all they’re really doing is reminding oneself just to watch Mulholland Drive again. What a pathetic waste of time this was.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox.
Directed by Marc Forster
Screenplay by David Benioff
Produced by Arnon Milchan
Starring Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling, Bob Hoskins
Release Year: 2005
Running Time: 99 minutes