Please Vote for Me

Back room deals, bribery, payoffs, glad-handing, bad-mouthing and under-handed skullduggery are all a part of the political game. We think this, often times, par for the course for our elected officials. But, not for three 8-year olds at the Evergreen Primary School in Wuhan, Central China, where, for the first time, a democratic election is under way to select the new class monitor in “Please Vote for Me.”

Laura's Review: B

In China's Wuhan Central Province school a lesson in democracy is taught all too well when teachers make the decision to hold class elections for the classroom monitor, a position usually appointed. The teachers have decided which three eight-year-old third-graders will run, and allow each of them to choose two assistants to mount their campaigns. The current monitor, Luo Lei, is chosen, as are the confident, chubby Cheng Cheng and the shy girl of the group, Xu Xiafei. Director Weijun Chen has captured all the politicking of American democracy in this microcosm with more drama than one would imagine. Tides turn and change. When negative campaigning doesn't do the trick, bribery comes into play. The candidates even have powerful supporters in their parents who are so invested in their child winning, each and every one has a hand in writing the final election speech. Young Xu, the daughter of a single mother, seems to get the least stage management at home. She also crumbles early on, when Luo starts with dirty tricks, heckling her first performance (inexplicably, a talent show is part of the process). Cheng Cheng, who seems the early lead, has a mother in television production and is routinely led through practice runs of both his performance and speeches. He also has the most impassioned assistant. But Luo Lei, despite being accused of having beaten on his classmates, has folks in the police department able to pull strings, like getting his entire class a ride on a monorail. Chen keeps us in the grip of his material and maintains suspense as to who will prevail. The film's ending is yet another ironic note on democracy - the vote which is routinely touted here as being the thing isn't much of anything if it is cast for the wrong reasons.

Robin's Review: B

As I thought about “Please Stand By,” it occurred to me that the film’s star appeared in another film about a mentally challenged adult, “I Am Sam (2001),” with Sean Penn. What does that have to do with the new film by Ben Lewin? Nothing, really, but it is an interesting factoid. Wendy, with Scottie’s help, goes through her daily rituals – walking her dog, Pete; preparing for her work day; making the journey to her job at Cinnabon (never, under any circumstances, cross Market Street). She handles it pretty well and hopes that she can prove herself to her older sister, Audrey (Alice Eve) that she is stable enough to come home. Audrey, though, has a new baby and is worried what Wendy might do. This dilemma and the Star Trek script contest are the catalyst for Wendy to prove that she can be trusted. She finishes her S.T. script (nearly 500 pages of it) and begins her quest to deliver her story to Paramount in LA. Wendy lives in San Francisco and cannot cross Market, so there is an immediate conflict for her. The story is about how she overcomes this and every obstacle to fulfill her mission. Dakota Fanning does a superior job portraying functional autism and her story, or “trek,” parallels the story she tells in her script – centering on half-human/half-alien Spock and his captain, Kirk. Wendy is Spock, at least in her mind, and she uses his logic and intelligence to inspire her to do what she sets out to do. Of course, Wendy’s disappearance triggers Scottie into action as she sets out, with her son, Sam (River Alexander), in tow, but not before she calls Audrey, to find her ward. This call pushes Audrey to begin her own search for her missing sister. These three roads – Wendy’s, Scottie’s and Audrey’s, all heading to LA – will, of course, converge in what one hopes will be the expected happy ending. Director Ben Lewin does not take the easy, glib path that the story could have gone down. Instead, Wendy’s personal journey garners the viewer’s sympathy, and often empathy, for the young woman and her quest. Of course, the script by Michael Galamco has her meeting good people, bad people, selfish people and those who are generous and kind but they are all a part of Wendy’s metamorphosis. Road movies are pretty common but “Please Stand By” makes the genre its own as we root for Wendy ever step of her way. What could be overly sentimental is fresh and grounded in a believable character that has a dream.