'The Stand In' Review: Drew Barrymore falls face-first into a pile of s**t, but that's not enough to save the film
Candy Black is a celebrated actress who has made a name in the industry with her finesse in the comedy genre. Played by Drew Barrymore, Candy Black is somewhat an Adam Sandler, a big star of slapstick comedy films with a catchphrase that doesn't even make much sense " Hit me where it hurts!".
Every time that Candy dives face-first in a pile of shit, she garners laughs and applauds from a dedicated audience that doesn't want to see her do anything new. And so, one fine day, Candy locks herself in her trailer doing drugs just before her last public breakdown. After this, she begins to live a life of a recluse and piles up thousands of dollars in debt. She has to now not only attend rehab but also do community service so that the courts know she is serious about her change. It is here that she asks for help from her stand-in, Paula, who readily agrees to take Candy's place in the rehab center. Directed by Jamie Babbit and written by Sam Bain, 'The Stand In' follows these two characters as they get into a seemingly symbiotic relationship that threatens to benefit only one.
It is here that the movie gets interesting. The trailer might have made it seem like 'The Stand In' is mostly a comedy about a double act, but it makes a decent run as a psychological thriller when Paula first steps into Candy's shoes to help her but then proceeds to completely take over her life without even thinking twice.
At first, Paula only starts an apology tour making only in-personal appearances on talk shows and news interviews. But the woman is so good on screen that she soon begins to get offers for movies. Candy is completely against the idea because she has no wish to return to the industry. Instead, she is happy being a recluse - living a secret simple life doing carpentry and talking to a love interest over the phone. She has no intentions of going to back to a place that left her damaged and broken. As it turns out, she never wanted to be an actress and landed her first role quite accidentally. Since then, Candy only went on to do one movie after the other to an extent where she and everyone else around her forgot who she really is - even her ardent fans had little idea of her real name.
"Everyone loves a redemption story," Paula's agent tells her. 'The Stand In' also has sufficient commentary on the star and cancel culture. At the same time, the movie is careful about not making its entire plot summarize this very point. Through Candy and Paula, we are shown two sides of the same coin - dreams and aspirations. One starts harming the other in no time and soon enough, things begin to fall apart.
Eventually, Paula finds herself in the same mess that Candy had at the beginning of the film - only she signed up for it, stealing the star's life for good. But Candy can hardly complain, can she?
Barrymore plays both the characters impressively. Better even is her portrayal of Paula, the obsessive woman who stops at nothing to realize her dream via Candy's life. With her meek yet manipulative demeanor, she carves the way forward for herself. Babbit's movie disappoints in its happy ending. We would have preferred to see Paula reign over Candy turning it into a psychological thriller - an unexpected twist that would have scored the movie better points.
'The Stand In' will be available to watch on Video on Demand and in theatres on December 11, 2020.