“Stay” (Regency Enterprises) is one of those movies that unfortunately seems all too familiar at this point. It explores the relationships and fine lines between dreams, reality and illusion. The film includes an all-star cast, but falls short of its talent and promise.
The movie centers on psychiatrist Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) and his girlfriend and former patient Lila (Naomi Watts). Sam is honest but vulnerable; his relationship with Lila obviously puts him in a compromising position. One day he meets a young suicidal patient Henry Lethem (Ryan Gosling) who seems to have a troubled past, and Sam eventually becomes obsessed with helping him. As he becomes more and more consumed with Henry’s life, Sam begins to question his own relationships and sense of reality.
Director Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland”) does a good job at bringing out the best of his actors. The movie is very strong visually, starting out with a disorienting opening shot and carrying out the same style throughout. His innovative camerawork and smooth transitions complement the themes of the intertwined, dream-like lives of the characters. This along with the combination of off-kilter, maze-like sets and repeated shots of staircases creates a dizzying reality within the film that adds to the sense of d?j? vu.
The cast is strong and delivers good performances, with the exception of a slightly miscast Janeane Garofalo. When not sporting strange suits from the 40s, Ewan McGregor is believable as Sam Foster and manages to pull off an American accent. His role in the movie is a marked improvement from the “Star Wars” trilogy, and reminds us why he became an actor in the first place. Fresh off his success from “The Notebook,” Ryan Gosling goes in a different direction and is a good pick for the disturbed and depressed Henry. Naomi Watts also gives a powerful performance, cementing herself as one of Hollywood’s newest leading talents.
The real problem with “Stay” is that it’s just not original. Over the past few years, movies like this have been released every three months. The film is reminiscent of movies such as David Lynch’s “Mullholland Drive” or Brad Anderson’s “The Machinist,” which both explore the same ideas of alternate realities and troubled characters, but do it better. The screenplay, by David Benioff, is probably the weak point of the film, as it doesn’t go any deeper than the basic storyline and becomes muddled near the end. Although “Stay” is by no means a bad movie, you just can’t help feeling that Sam Foster isn’t the only one experiencing d?j? vu.
“Stay” opens in theaters nationwide Oct. 21.