Short Film Review: “Stuck” (Steve Blackwood, 2020)

Around a year ago, I reviewed a short entitled Meet the Author and directed by actor Steve Blackwood (Days of Our Lives, In the Light of the Moon, Beyond the Mask). The comedy taking place in a library and introducing an unpopular author was a pleasant one to watch and revealed Blackwood’s talent at writing and directing comedy. Not long after, Mr Blackwood informed me about his new short film project, a comedy named Stuck, and asked if I was willing to review this one as well. Being busy with my master thesis, at the time, and other stuff later, I took a lot of time before watching the short but finally did yesterday. I have to thank Mr Blackwood for his patience!

Stuck was directed by Steve Blackwood, who also co-wrote the film with David Susman, and stars alongside Broadway actress Sandy Bainum (42nd Street, Mamma Mia). The short was itself based on the one-act play by David Susman.

With Stuck, the viewer dives into a kinky type of humour. The film begins with young actor Max Schochet as Finn Slominki, a young delivery man whose destination is the house of George Simon (Steve Blackwood) and his wife, Helen Simon (Sandy Baium). The object delivered is a bondage sex toy, a “love trap”, bought by George to spice up his couple life. However, as he delivers the toy, Finn suggests to George (or, more precisely, imposes himself) to set up the delivery toy (he’s very enthusiastic about it). Somehow, the poor guy remains stuck in the various straps consisting the sex-machine. Simon and Helen, who both work in the advertisement world, are to receive some of their clients for dinner (very strick and religious people apparently) and need to find a quick solution to hide Finn (who passed out) and the sex toy or to get him out of the love trap. It’s not without panic and more surprises that they’ll attempt this task.

After watching both Meet the Author and Stuck, it is easy to observe a pattern in the comedic style of Steve Blackwood. If both films feature little jazzy music in their introduction, the situation gets out of hand rapidly. Steve Blackwood indeed knows how to disturb the peace with creative situations. However, both films remain different, not only in their narrativity but also in their philosophy, and the type of characters that is at the centre of the story. While Marvin Bregman from Meet the Author is that writer whose conference only attracts someone who hasn’t liked his book, George seems to be more a down-to-Earth person (he often reminds his wife not to panic). However, even if the Simons are a middle-age couple without an apparent story, this doesn’t prevent the actors from delivering a performance full of energy. The acting game of Sandy Baium is, indeed, expressive, which gives a clue of her experience as a stage actress. On his side, Blackwood also delivers his lines with pep and motivation. The way the Simons behave in front of their uncomfortable situation makes us ask how we would behave if we were facing the same problem. While Blackwood and Susman chose the approach of rationality for George and of panic for Helen, someone else could have decided to introduce characters not complexed by their new acquisition. It’s fun to imagine the possibilities.

Because of its restricted location, Stuck works well as a short. Indeed, the action takes place in the Simons’ house and is mostly limited to their dining room and bedroom. The story, or rather the situation itself, is also one that fits well with the concept of short because limited in time. It’s the kind of situation that could fit in a feature film but, if isolated, it’s perfect short material. After all, we must not forget that it was based on a one-act play.

One minor issue I would address concerning the technical aspect of the film is the sound dimension. The sound was clear but, sometimes (not often), I had difficulty to perfectly seize what was said, especially when Max Schochet was delivering his lines.

Stuck will please those able to laugh at all kind of situations because it is, by no mean, meant to be taken seriously. The story is original, well-executed and a quick watch. The crystal-clear cinematography by Michael B. Fisher, and the animation during the credits by Riley Thompson also makes it visually pleasing. There’s a touch of colour here and there, being the pink lighting in the closet, Helen’s red dress (carefully chosen by Karen Blackwood) or their mismatched curtains.

Stuck is a finalist at the 2021 New York International Film Awards in the Best Indie Short category. So, it is, to say the least, a success.

For a foretaste of Blackwood film, I invite you to check the trailer: