Please Stand By is a 2017 American comedy-drama film directed by Ben Lewin and based on the 2008 short play of the same name by Michael Golamco, who also wrote the screenplay. The film stars Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette, Alice Eve, River Alexander, and Patton Oswalt, and was distributed by Magnolia Pictures. After playing at various film festivals, the film was simultaneously released theatrically and on-demand on January 26, 2018.
Wendy (played by Dakota Fanning) is an autistic young woman who stays in a group home in Oakland, California monitored by her primary caregiver, Scottie (played by Toni Collette). She is fixated by Star Trek and spends her time writing a 450-page Star Trek script to enter in Paramount Pictures’ screenwriting contest in hopes of winning the $100,000 prize. Wendy is visited by her sister Audrey (Alice Eve), who shows Wendy pictures of her infant daughter, Ruby, and reveals that she is selling their childhood home. Wendy asks Audrey to take her home, arguing that she will be able to buy back the house and help Audrey care for Ruby once she wins the screenwriting contest. Audrey refuses, telling Wendy she isn’t capable of caring for a baby. Wendy has a meltdown and Audrey leaves in tears.
Wendy misses the date to submit the script via post so she sneaks out of the house early the next morning and is followed by the group home’s small dog, Pete (who is in a Star Trek themed outfit knitted by Wendy) and decides to hand it over in person to Paramount Pictures. Wendy and Pete board a bus to Los Angeles, but are kicked off and left by the side of the road after Pete urinates in the bus. She then walks into a small town and is mugged off most of her money. At a nearby store where she goes to buy some food, she is nearly tricked out the rest of her cash but an elderly woman named Rose comes to help her. Rose sympathizes with Wendy as her grandson also has autism, and lets Wendy accompany her on the senior citizens’ bus. The bus driver subsequently falls asleep at the wheel, crashing the bus. Following the bus crash, Wendy wakes up in a hospital in Bakersfield. Still determined to turn in her script, Wendy leaves Pete at the hospital, attacks a nurse, and escapes. During her escape, Wendy loses part of her script. She gathers used paper and begins rewriting the script.
While this is happening Scottie realizes that Wendy is missing and along with her son heads to find her. Audrey too joins the search, leaving her baby in the hands of her husband. The Bakersfield hospital notifies Scottie and Audrey of Wendy’s whereabouts; police continue the search from there. Sam and Scottie find the missing script pages while scouring the hospital. Wendy then attempts to buy a bus ticket to Los Angeles, but is unable as she has no money. She ultimately stows away on the next bus to Los Angeles, hiding herself inside a baggage compartment. Upon her arrival in Los Angeles, Wendy wanders around until two police officers recognize her from the missing person’s report. Officer Frank (Patton Oswalt) gains Wendy’s trust by speaking to her in Klingon. The officers take Wendy to the police station, where she is reunited with Audrey and Scottie. They bring Wendy to Paramount Pictures so she can deliver her script.
A rude mailroom worker tells her that the scripts have to be sent by post but Wendy is able to sneak past security and submit the script to the turn-in box. Satisfied that she has completed her mission, Wendy tells her sister she did it to prove that she was more capable than Audrey thought. Wendy returns back to the group home where she later receives a letter from Paramount stating her script was not chosen, but encouraging her to continue writing. Despite the rejection, she is satisfied with everything she has accomplished. Wendy visits Audrey and holds her niece for the first time and the two sisters bond again.
It’s a sweet movie ably acted by the powerhouses of Fanning & Collette & ably supported by Alice Eve and the rest of the cast. It’s a coming of age film with a Star Trek hue that will make us Trekkies very happy. I give the film an 8 outta 10 for the low budget, art & film festival type movie that it is.