From first-time director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos comes the film Stanleyville, a charming, overlooked pandemic release that feels like David Lynch, but special-needs. And that’s not a bad thing. Lynchian content is good in any form.
The premise of the film is very simple, and the director wastes almost no time on pointless exposition. He just plunges you into the story, and I appreciate it. In true Lynchian fashion, you’re immersed in a world with a bizarre internal logic, and you kinda just have to roll with it.
The gist is: five strangers compete in a surreal competition in order to win an SUV. The only thing these people have in common is that they’re all… Well, to quote from Intolerable Cruelty: they are easily duped, the type of person you could brazenly cuckold. They’re the sort of people who unironically believe in Amway, Herbalife, Elon Musk, and karma.
The competition seems tailor-made to this group. In fact, as the plot goes on, you get the sense that it’s just another MLM scam that the characters have been roped into. Some of their challenges are: write an anthem for the planet; hold your breath the longest; give the referee somebody else’s earlobe… Weird quasi-Lynchian stuff, which gets more intense as it builds to the finale.
But enough about the plot. Let’s talk about the referee, one of the most Lynchian-but-not-actually-by-David-Lynch characters I’ve ever seen: Homunculus.
God bless this character. He’s like a dumber version of The Giant from Twin Peaks. From his mannerisms to his stilted speech pattern, to him not really knowing how the competition works EVEN THOUGH HE’S RUNNING IT… He’s genuinely incredible, and very endearing.
I mean this sincerely. Everyone else is fine – I did enjoy watching George Tchortov as Bofill Pancreas, the protein-shake-bro. His name alone makes me laugh every time I read it. But Homunculus is the standout, and he single-handedly saves the film from complete forgettability.
So if you’re a fan of David Lynch’s style, but you prefer something more pleasant (which is a contradiction, but whatever, you get the idea)… Then Stanleyville could be for you. At the very least, it’ll give you the satisfaction of feeling smarter than literally every character. And you get to spend ninety minutes with our Lord and Savior Homunculus.