June 10, 2008

On the Horizon: Quid Pro Quo

HDNet Films and Magnolia Pictures present Quid Pro Quo, a new drama by writer/director Carlos Brooks.

Of the few people to whom I've briefly described Quid Pro Quo, more than a few have looked at me like I have three heads. The premise is as bizarre as it sounds, but it's not really bizarre at all when you consider there are 6.5 billion people on this planet with about as many different personality quirks, and some are shared by only a few people. Like Fiona (Vera Farmiga) and a few other New Yorkers, who wish they were wheelchair-bound paraplegics or amputees. In fact, they don't just wish - they actually see it through, bribing doctors to cut off good legs or paying...uh...less educated practitioners to paralyze them in any squirm-inducing variety of ways. This disorder exists. Isaac Knott (Nick Stahl), an actual paraplegic since age 8, is a public radio reporter who's tasked with producing a story about this subculture.

At the screening I attended, producer Sarah Pillsbury (yes, of Dough Boy fame, they're a local royal family) spoke on behalf of first-time writer and director Carlos Brooks. She said Brooks' original idea for the film evolved after he became familiar with "body integrity identity disorder" and researched it on his own to see if it actually existed (it has since then been the subject of Whole, a documentary by Minnesotan Melody Gilbert that will be included on the Quid Pro Quo DVD). Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Breaking and Entering) blew away the audition field and Nick Stahl (Terminator 3, Bully) was brought on board when Jeremy Sisto became unavailable for the film.

Don't spend too long deciding whether to see Quid Pro Quo. Either ignore it completely or make the decision to go and just go. I recommend that you do, and I recommend that you enter full blackout mode beforehand. No trailer, no reviews, no synopsis. If you've already seen the trailer, well that's fine, it's actually completely misleading. Just don't go rooting around for more info. All you need to know (and more, actually) I've already told you.
Yes, it's provocative and yes, some people could take offense, but it is not graphic or gruesome. Go watch Saw if you're into that kind of thing (clearly I'm not, so I don't even know if that happens in Saw, but anyway...).

Quid Pro Quo will be seeing a limited release on June 13th, but according to Pillsbury it's already On Demand in several hotel chains (weird, but it
's distributed by HDNet Films, so it's Mark Cuban, so if you know anything about him, well there you go), so check it out if you're the travelin' type. Otherwise come back (after you've seen it) for my full review when Quid Pro Quo opens to a wider release, possibly at the end of the month.


  1. Sounds interesting. This kind of disorder might lead one to believe in reincarnation. But I wonder if the neurological disorder Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote about in A Leg to Stand On might have more to do with it:

    "In A Leg To Stand On , it is Dr. Sacks himself who is the patient: an encounter with a bull on a desolate mountain in Norway has left him with a severely damaged leg. But what should be a routine recuperation is actually the beginning of a strange medical journey, when he finds that his leg uncannily no longer feels a part of his body. Sacks's description of his crisis and eventual recovery is not only an illuminating examination of the experience of patienthood and the inner nature of illness and health, but also a fascinating exploration of the physical basis of identity."

    He actually talked about wanting to get rid of the limb, feeling it was dead wood on his body.

  2. Yes, I've heard of that kind of thing, Marilyn, as well as "phantom" limbs for people who are already amputees. A lot of returning vets are dealing with both that and what you describe. Pretty interesting phenomena.

    The difference with "body integrity disorder" (I haven't the doc Whole) is that these people are completely healthy and injury-free. It's an entirely psychological deal.

    In any case, QPQ is not so much about the disorder as it is about the relationship between Isaac and Fiona...

  3. I understand what you're saying, but I'm not convinced that there isn't a biological component to it. Mind/body is a false dichotomy because the mind is in the body, is kept alive by the body. Neurologists are finding ever more connections, including that elusive thing called the soul.

  4. I am really not a fan of Nick Stahl, but I'll give this one a try whenever I can. as

  5. I'm a big fan of blackout mode. For people like us (I'm assuming for others), it's rare and somewhat hard to go into a movie cold, but I usually find that I enjoy the experience more. Went and saw Roman De Gare this weekend knowing very little about it, and came away quite pleased. I don't know if it actually changes the experience, but it's just a refreshing thing to do now and then.

  6. The mind/body connection is a fair point, Marilyn. Even if you believe the brain is the home of the mind and soul, it can be considered a physical organ as much as anything else in the body.

    I meant to emphasize that "BIID" is a situation where people don't have any obvious physical injury to their spine or extremities. Someone at the screening (I'm not sure how accurately) compared it to transgender identity issues, as does the article I linked to. In the film, Farmiga's character says she is a paralyzed person trapped in an able-bodied person's body.

    Nick hasn't wowed me in much up until this, Nick, but give a Nick a chance...

    That's the adjective, Nayana. You can always count on a movie to expand your horizons a bit.

    I think it absolutely changes the experience, Fletch. Everybody knows trailers - especially from the repeated viewings by those of us in theaters all the time - can give away almost an entire plot. QPQ is one that especially deserves a cold viewing.

    You're now the 2nd or 3rd trusted source to speak positively about Roman de Gare. To go, or not to go...

  7. This Nick will give that Nick a chance, promise.

  8. Can't deny your brother from another mother, Nick. I actually wonder where this guy's career is going to go. I missed him in Sleepwalking. Did you see that over the weekend?

  9. Sadly, full blackout mode for me isn't an option. I first read about it when it played Sundance and then recently I was exposed to the trailer.

    Fletch, I also saw RDG without knowing anything about except that it was directed by Claude Lelouche. I defnitely think it benefited. For 2/3s of the running time, half of the mystery was in figuring out what they mystery was in the first place.

    Very cool.

  10. Ah well, Craig. Like I said, I think the trailer is kind of misleading. I still say go for it. It's not a classic, but it's an impressive debut and an interesting story.

  11. Danny, I did not see "Sleepwalking" because it got awful reviews from local critics, and while that doesn't mean much to me, it did mean that I had no one to go with, and I refuse to go to the movies alone, unless it is for a movie I really, really want to see. I hope that I see it this week or I will have to wait for it on DVD, there is no way that one is staying in cinemas long here. I can guarantee it.

  12. Yeah it wasn't really buzzed about too much here. I think it stuck around for a week. I just saw it on your release list last week. I doubt either of us missed much.


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