Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nick Stahl, Vera Farmiga, Aimee Mullins, Rachel Matthews Black, Dylan Bruno, Kate Burton, Jeane Fournier, James Frain, Phil LaMarr, Jacob Pitts, Pablo Schreiber, Richard Serlen, Ben Siegler
Written by: Carlos Brooks
Directed by: Carlos Brooks
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality and language
Running Time: 82
Date: 01/20/2008

Quid Pro Quo (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Heart Like a Wheelchair

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Carlos Brooks' debut feature Quid Pro Quo is one of those movies that takes place in a kind of fictional New York, where everything moves a bit slower, the lights aren't so bright and you can hear yourself think. The main character, Isaac Knott (Nick Stahl), has been in a wheelchair since age 8 and works in a public radio station telling tales of the city in a soothing murmur. His workplace is comfy and homey and even the office bully doesn't seem so bad. His apartment, restaurants and even the streets and sidewalks have the same kind of vibe. Oddly enough, when the movie's creepy plot kicks in, it doesn't clash with this hushed world; even more disturbingly, it actually seems to fit. (It's a movie of dark corners rather than bright straightaways.) Isaac gets a tip about a group of wheelchair "wannabes," or people who have the use of their legs and dream about full-time life in a wheelchair. He learns about different sub-groups of this club, which go all the way to people who attempt to amputate or paralyze their own limbs to be more "genuine." His source turns out to be the strange, sexy Fiona (Vera Farmiga), who restores Chinese artifacts for a museum. She's a nervous oddball, smiling and laughing to cover up her insecurities; she's uneasy about speaking on the record, but she's ready to privately confide in Isaac her desire to be wheelchair bound. Just as their relationship gets intense, Isaac buys a pair of shoes that somehow restore the feeling in his legs. It would have been more interesting if Fiona and Isaac had been more physically intimate -- Isaac tells us in his narration that, yes, he can have sex -- but for some reason Isaac remains faithful to a former flame. Likewise, some of the story elements seem a bit random or at odds or coincidental, but if you let that consistent still-of-the-night mood sweep you up, anything becomes possible. By far the movie's strong suit is Farmiga (Down to the Bone, The Departed), who gives an astonishingly layered performance, with an entire lifetime of character tics and insecurities built up over two hours. I doubt this little movie will be noticed or remembered at Oscar time, but it would be very satisfying to see her get a nomination.

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