Stuck is a rush of pure honesty, a dash of feeling, an unfiltered romantic and sincere respite to the robotic and desensitized films Hollywood continues to churn out. Miraculously, Stuart Acher, in his directorial debut, has managed to tackle 21st century romanticism with none other than real people.
Holly (Madelina Zima) and Guy (Joel David Moore) made the same regrettable decision to get intoxicated and hook up with one another for an emotionally vacuous one-night stand. Alas, their meaningless sex together is compounded the next morning when Guy attempts to drive Holly back to her car, which she left at the bar the night before.
The greatest fear of their one-night stand is quickly realized when the two get stuck in hellish Los Angeles traffic: Gridlock forces Guy and Holly to have actual conversation — one not propelled by lust or sexual desires. And like any discourse between two normal human beings they discuss a myriad of topics, from past relationships to politics to sex to how they got to the place they are now.
Peppered with humor and insight, Stuart’s witty and topical script reveals Guy and Holly’s virtues and vices. Holly is a “serial monogamist” and Guy is a “serial datist.” But Stuck doesn’t judge its characters — it merely takes and presents them at face value.
Guy and Holly are people after all, which is what makes their pratfalls and triumphs so identifiable. Their general confusion with modern romance – texting instead of talking, quick quips instead of intimacy – is our confusion. The angst that comes with dating and finding the “right” person is the same angst many of us have or will experience in our lives.
All of this material comes across as relatable because of the talent in front of the camera. The film heavily relies on the rapport and chemistry between Zima and Moore (which they have in spades). Shot in 10 days for a budget less than $1 million, the two incredibly gifted performers have the ability to organically bounce dialogue off each other. A majority of Stuck takes place in Guy’s car. Occasionally the film is interwoven with flashbacks from the night before (the two flirting, drinking, dancing. etc) and aerial shots of the deathly, immobile L.A. traffic.
But don’t let me fool you. While Zima and Moore are stars in the making (and deserve full-credit for their nuanced work here), this is Stuart Acher’s story. Alongside writing and directing the film with panache, Acher serves as the editor of Stuck. This is auteurism in its most primal form.
However, the film’s greatest feat lies in the creation of these two characters. As Guy and Holly continue to talk, the coldness and natural awkwardness of a one-night stand dissipates. Through these characters the film cuts through our romantic affectations by digging beyond the artifice, and eventually, and perhaps a bit unexpectedly, finds its way into our hearts.