“The Stand-In” has the plot of what could have a Drew Barrymore of twenty years ago.
She plays a comic actress, burned out and strung out, over the whole showbiz thing and ready to stop being a celebrity. And she plays the star’s stand-in, a woman barely getting by on a little luck and no talent.
Drew times two? That’s a winner!
It is littered with cameos from pals, from Jimmy Fallon and Kelly Ripa to Lena Dunham and Richard Kind, playing themselves or bit parts.
Jamie Babbit of “But I’m a Cheerleader” and TV’s “Girls,” directed and veteran British screenwriter Sam Bain (“Four Lions,” TV’s “Ill Behaviour”) cooked up the story, setting and gags.
But in trying to impose a statement on it, we watch in dismay as promising ideas are introduced and passed by on the film’s way to wherever the hell they decide to go instead. A laugh here and there is the best we can hope for, even though Barrymore’s plainly still got the comic goods.
We meet Candy Black at her post-peak/still-a-diva worst, hiding in her trailer snorting this and belting back that rather than face another pratfall-driven comedy, another chance to deliver her catchphrase — “Hit me where it hurts!”
“Pippi Bongstocking” and “Maid in Chattanooga” and “Rocks Off” made her rich and famous…and contemptuous of one and all. Lashing out, cussing one and all is kind of her brand, now. It takes her stand-in (Drew II), begging for the work, to coax her out of the trailer.
But one on-set tirade too many, injuring a co-star (Ellie Kemper) and going viral, ends it all. Years later, Candy’s gone “Grey Gardens,” hiding out in her Long Island mansion, avoiding taxes, still using/abusing, but “over” the whole fame thing.
Court-ordered rehab is just another thing to dodge. Get her agent (T.J. Miller, funnier than usual) on the phone. What was the stand-in’s name? Paula…something?
They find her — living in her aged camper-shell pickup. Summoning Paula they strike a deal. Candy’s all about shucking showbiz and making Shaker furniture, and there’s this carpenter she’s met online. Do rehab for her and she’ll take a job and Paula gets that part of her life back.
Rehab is the first promising, if obvious, twist that “Stand-In” steers away from.
The story instead becomes one of sweet, meek pushover Paula taking on public appearances, an “apology tour” and the “comeback” that Candy, still hiding out and going by her original name “Cathy” now, is refusing to mount.
“All you have to do is say ‘Sorry!'”
Paula (Barrymore with a fake nose and weight-padding) starts out sweet, giving us the Candy the world deserved — somebody a tad more grateful for stardom. But as you might guess, as she takes over more and more of this work and this “life,” she changes.
“You may have made a name for yourself, but I’m the only one doing anything with it!”
Bain’s screenplay has a lot of trouble with transitions, lapses in logic and clumsy changes in tone. Sexting Shaker furniture double entendres with her wood-working guru (Michael Zegen) should have been funnier, but seems off key, even in a movie with a lot of drugs and some darker turns.
That said, the opening tirade scenes are a hoot, Miller is amusing and has agent-sweet talk down cold.
“Buddyyyyyyy, I’m JOKING. I don’t have to tell you that I don’t have to tell you that I’m joking.”
Holland Taylor, playing a film director, and couple of the cameos pay off.
And Barrymore does a fine job of differentiating between Candy and Paula. Funny how strung-out “Candy” looks a lot like the 2020 version of Susan Sarandon.
Drew and “The Stand-In” are just good enough at making us remember that we’ve missed her timing and comic charm. And all this TV work, topped with starting a chat show in a pandemic, is no substitute for seeing her take on a role and making it funny in a feature film.
Well, funnier than this. Drew’s still got it even if “The Stand-In” doesn’t.”
MPA Rating: R for language throughout including sexual references, and for drug use
Cast: Drew Barrymore, T.J. Miller, Holland Taylor, Ellie Kemper, Michael Zegen
Credits: Directed by Jamie Babbit, scripted by Sam Bain. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:41