Film

Rom-Com #Stuck Is the Most Fun You Can Have Being Caught in Traffic

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The hashtag in #Stuck is misleading: Holly (Madeline Zima) and Guy (Joel David Moore) are not social-media-savvy millennials who hook up online (as in Two Night Stand). Their morning-after is the old-fashioned result of too much drinking and flirting at a Los Angeles bar.

It might have been just another forgettable encounter if Guy hadn’t offered to drive Holly back to her car, and they hadn’t gotten trapped in a massive traffic jam. It’s here that first-time writer-director Stuart Acher begins playing with the narrative structure. Holly and Guy face off within the confines of his Honda Element, their hesitant conversation punctuated by backwards flashbacks of their intoxicating evening.

Acher starts with their clumsy sexual encounter, made all the more awkward (and voyeuristic) by his use of first-person perspective shots, viewing the action through each character’s eyes. (Kathryn Bigelow used this technique to great effect in Strange Days.) While Holly and Guy are parked on the freeway, Acher’s widescreen camera also wanders off to explore the surrounding vehicles, capturing moments of exasperation and humor. Acher adroitly juggles all the gimmickry, using it to comment on Holly and Guy’s burgeoning relationship.

Portraying an attorney and accountant, respectively, Zima and Moore exude the confidence of successful professionals, but their situation allows for a freewheeling conversation about unfulfilled expectations. As their fellow stuck drivers go from virulent anger to serene relief, Holly and Guy wind their way back to that initial spark of attraction and recast their ill-fated ride as a felicitous detour.

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