For Wendy (Dakota Fanning), the world is as big as it is confusing. Autistic and living in a San Francisco group home under the tutelage of Scottie (Toni Collette), Wendy has learned what to do and how to do — from which color sweater to wear on Tuesdays to saying the right thing to customers while handing out samples at Cinnabon — it’s just the why that trips her up.
And while her day job at Cinnabon and her living space bring comfort and routine, Wendy’s life lacks purpose and adventure. She finds it in a Star Trek spec script contest. Focusing on Spock’s struggle between his logical Vulcan side and his emotional human side, Wendy finds her perfect cipher.
The writing comes easily to Wendy — her script runs 500 pages — but getting it to Paramount Pictures before the deadline is what stands in her way. Her solution: Cross Market Street for the very first time and make the 382-mile journey from San Fran to L.A.
Written by Michael Golamco and directed by Ben Lewin, Please Stand By is a lukewarm movie with its heart in the right place. Fanning gives a performance that colors neatly in the lines but fails to address the messier aspects of this character, much in the same way Golamco and Lewin fail to address the nastiness of the world around her.
The result is a movie of best intentions, one trying to ignore the obvious fact that it’s mining its lead character’s social shortcomings for dramatic purposes. Once it does, it rounds the edges, buffs out the scratches, and plays it safe.
Please Stand By is in limited release.