While the cast does an amazing job of anchoring this somewhat meandering at times absurdist comedy, ‘Stanleyville’ feels incomplete in what it’s trying to say and almost feels inappropriate to call a comedy.
Maxwell McCabe-Lokos’s feature film debut, Stanleyville, is an absurdist comedic cross between “Squid Game” and perhaps “Lord of the Flies,” as we follow Maria (Susanne Wuest), a bored office worker who abandons her old life and joins a competition to win an oft-repeated “Habanero-Orange Sports Utility Vehicle”. An SUV that means more to her competition than it would to her. This competition becomes a journey of purpose or to at least find what her purpose could be.
The competition slowly descends from seemingly meaningless games and semi-comedic moments, my favorite line being “research data shows that everything you have done in your life has led to this moment, and the next moment, and the moment that follows until the end,” to bloody, ear lobe separating madness that has to be seen to be believed. The competition is supposed to be a journey into self-realization without the aid of technology, though one round is a make-your-own communication device.
This, however, has a brutalizing effect on the players who slowly collapse into the baser competitive instincts at the cost of their lives or their competition. The characters narrow to the worst aspects of each character’s personalities, laying bare that most humans buy any schlock thrown at them to belong or feel something bigger than they are.
Shot like a hungover Wes Anderson flick, ‘Stanleyville’ feels like a reality TV indictment of laissez-faire economics that created the less absurd (and dangerous) Survivor, The Real World, or Big Brother and the people who enjoy it; regardless of the extremes, the competitor goes to. The aforementioned Wuest and “Homunculus” (Julian Richings) do an amazing job of anchoring this somewhat meandering at times absurdist comedy that feels incomplete in what it’s trying to say and almost feels inappropriate to call a comedy.
‘STANLEYVILLE’ is now playing in select theaters.
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