Background: According to producer Sarah Pillsbury (a Minnesota native, like the Dough Boy), writer/director Carlos Brooks discovered Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) by accident one night as he was researching for an upcoming project. While the disorder has already been the subject of the 2003 documentary Whole (by Minnesotan Melody Gilbert), Quid Pro Quo is the first feature length film to focus on it. Starring Nick Stahl (Bully, Terminator 3) and Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Breaking and Entering), Quid Pro Quo had a limited theater release and is being distributed by Mark Cuban's HDNet Films. On a recent trip I saw it featured on a hotel's On Demand service for $19.99, plus tax. Figure that out if you can.
Synopsis : Isaac Knott (Stahl) is a NYC public radio reporter. He's been a wheelchair-bound paraplegic since the age of eight, when he was severely injured in a rural car accident that killed both of his parents. Assigned by a producer to investigate a rumor of healthy individuals privately seeking amputations at local hospitals, Isaac discovers an entire subculture of paraplegic "wannabes". Flora (Farmiga) is one of these individuals, and in the course of seducing Isaac she shows him how she walks around her apartment in body braces and navigates the city in her wheelchair, dutifully practicing for the day she will actually be paralyzed - hopefully with Isaac's help. As their bizarre relationship progresses, Flora becomes desperate and Isaac discovers a very special pair of shoes...all of this culminates in one of the better twist endings of the year.
+ The close up shots of the dew-covered tulips.
+ The underlying suspense flowing through the whole movie, even though I wouldn't consider this a "thriller" in the way that it's marketed.
+ Vera Farmiga, in a role that allowed her to shine more than in some other movies (The Departed, Breaking and Entering, The Manchurian Candidate).
+ The return of Phil LaMarr. You know him from "Mad TV" and Pulp Fiction, but he's apparently been doing only voice acting in video games and animated television since then. Dude, you're a fine actor - get back on screen.
- Some melodramatic moments, either the result of overacting or underwriting. The visit to Flora's mother's house didn't work for me.
- The ending. That's all I can say without spoiling anything.
- The underground "wannabes" meeting.
Writing - 8
Acting - 9
Production - 8
Emotional Impact - 8
Music - 5
Significance - 5
Total: 43/50= 86% = B
Last Word: I mentioned in my preview of Quid Pro Quo that I attended a screening with producer Sarah Pillsbury in attendance. Growing up blonde in Minnesota, Pillsbury lamented that she didn't feel "special" enough, that she didn't feel like she could separate herself from the crowd. As such, she said she's always been interested in filmmaking that touches on "what we think we deserve."
Ignoring the fact that Pillsbury did not actually write or direct the film, I don't think I can make the connection between blonde hair and BIID quite as easily as she does, even though individuals with this disorder may think they "deserve" to be paraplegics and/or amputees. They're rightly concerned that they may be rejected by society, and to that end Quid Pro Quo appropriately brings the issue to light.
However, while it may be considered an important movie in that sense, I'm concerned about the mindset with which it was produced, despite Pillsbury's assertion that she is "ridiculously politically correct" and that she would be surprised if anyone is offended by it. She herself admitted that her friend, a wheelchair-bound screenwriter, refused to watch Quid Pro Quo. Wouldn't that cause some consideration or reflection on how you're presenting the issue?
I don't think Pillsbury and/or Carlos Brooks are obliged to carefully tiptoe around a film like this, but Pillsbury (Brooks was not in attendance) didn't even seem to be aware of how potentially offensive it could be. That doesn't make Quid Pro Quo a bad movie, but it does mean that it ends up being an intriguing story that just happens to use a controversial issue to develop its twists, rather than a really insightful look at BIID. If you're going to initiate such a discussion, I think you have the responsibility to tell the whole story.
You can interpret for yourself the fact that the documentary Whole is going to be included on the Quid Pro Quo DVD.