Although billed as a “hilarious” comedy, “The Stand In” turns out to be a whole lot darker than that, offering a rather pointed rumination on the price of fame. This dual-role showcase for Drew Barrymore thus becomes an uneven but interesting showbiz-centric movie – as if “The Player” got mashed up with “Dave.”
Barrymore’s Candy Black is essentially an Adam Sandler-like comedy star, spouting a silly catchphrase (she’s shown saying “Hit me where it hurts!” in every role) and awash in the diva-like trappings that come with celebrity. When she grouses about the low-brow material, her handlers not very reassuringly describe it as “an alternative type of quality.”
That comes to an end, somewhat abruptly, in what’s accurately described as an on-set meltdown, turning her radioactive in Hollywood and causing her to drop out of the public spotlight.
Still, Candy isn’t the only victim of her excess, which also dried up work for Paula (also Barrymore), her stand-in, who harbors her own dreams of stardom when not standing around marking spots for the leading lady.
Having fallen on hard times, Paula is particularly enthusiastic when contacted about what she thinks will be an acting part, but which just turns out to be Candy making a rather eccentric proposal: That the woman stand in for her at rehab, figuring no one will notice the difference.
Paula agrees, but the ruse soon expands to include all sorts of personal appearances, launching what amounts to an “apology tour” in which Paula appears as Candy on a series of talk shows, with the various hosts (Savannah Guthrie, Jimmy Fallon, Ryan Seacrest) playing themselves.
“You seem to like being Candy a lot more than I ever did,” Candy says.
Giddy over her new-found success, Paula increasingly moves to fill the void, expanding the charade by inserting herself into the one thing that has kept Candy sane – a new, phone-only relationship with Steve (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s” Michael Zegen) – the first step in a series of events that fall somewhere between protecting what she’s got and revenge.
Directed by Jamie Babbit from a script by Sam Bain, “The Stand In” has its share of clunky moments, but there are fairly amusing asides about how Hollywood works, from a film director (Holland Taylor) threatening to fire Candy and bring in Melissa McCarthy to the feckless nature of Candy’s support crew.
Appearing to relish the break from her own talk-show duties, Barrymore wears a slightly enlarged nose to separate the two, but most of the characterization resides in Paula’s breathless, slightly honeyed voice (think Marilyn Monroe) versus Candy’s blunt, foul-mouthed tirades.
“The Stand In” doesn’t deliver many laughs, but it does offer a pretty good window into the demands of stardom, and how they can become the ultimate in velvet prisons. The ups and downs of the two women (OK, one woman) at its core actually yield more surprises than might be expected with a concept that sounds so formulaic.
There’s a familiar touch of “Dave” or “The Prisoner of Zenda” in that – the ordinary soul who turns out to be pretty good at occupying this privileged life – with movie stardom presenting another kind of modern royalty.
As movies go, “The Stand In” certainly isn’t a headliner. Yet like its title character, the movie and its star get about as much mileage as they can out of this opportunity.
“The Stand In” premieres on digital/on demand and in select theaters on Dec. 11. It’s rated R.