My favorite sequence in the new psychological thriller Stay is the scene where Ewan McGregor, as a fidgety shrink, chases his most disturbed patient, played by Ryan Gosling (that guy from The Notebook), out of an art gallery and into an aquarium next door. I think this is what happens. Ryan touches one of the tanks and a manatee or sea walrus or whatever nudges the glass and Ryan looks sad and turns around and an elderly couple snap his picture and say mysteriously "He won't make it."
Oh, the meaningful dialogue.
Naomi Watts to Ewan: "Tell me they will remember me."
Naomi: "The world."
Ewan: "The world will remember you. Take off your clothes."
And there's the dead woman who says, "Most days I don't say a single word. Sometimes I stay silent so long I forget to speak."
Stay is a bad movie that happens to good people. Or as one character says, in the picture's solitary moment of clarity, "Bad art is as important as good art because it documents a human failure." Well, yes: aside from that impressive trio of leading actors, the director is Marc Forster, who made Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball, and the screenwriter is David Benioff, the fine novelist behind Spike Lee's 25th Hour. And what the result documents (along with some bad art) is the inability of anyone here to drop their pretense at the door.
If you don't get it, good - because you're not meant to. Here's what I made out: Illusion is reality. Reality is illusion. (Cool, huh?) McGregor is Sam the shrink, who is dating Lila (Watts) the tortured artist, who has the razor marks to prove the torture behind the art. Sam's latest patient is Henry (Gosling), who also is an artist and who also wants to kill himself, and who may be Sam. Or Sam may be Henry. Or none of them exist at all. Did I mention Bob Hoskins? He's the blind sage who plays chess with Ewan - who wears high-waters.
Surely, that means... nada.
I quit caring, or trying. Pretty and utterly devoid of empathy for these people, Stay is a puzzle as emotionally distant as the images of an art installation, and yet Forster wants this thing to come together as elegantly as an Unbreakable or Sixth Sense. The problem with dream logic, however, is it must make dramatic sense, and every shred here is enigmatic - often intentionally meaningless. Oh yes, it pulls together, for a twist so cheap and ancient, that Stay has the guts to yank it out of mothballs can only mean... actually, I have no idea.
Contact Christopher Borrelli at: firstname.lastname@example.org