Movies in Brief: ‘Quid Pro Quo’

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The New York Sun

Carlos Brooks’s Sundance entry “Quid Pro Quo” involves a bizarre subculture of able-bodied people who fervently hope and pretend to be paralyzed. Had Hollywood not previously exposed us to other secret cults, such as the masked hierogamy in Arthur Schnitzler’s “Traumnovelle” (in “Eyes Wide Shut”) and the bare-knuckle brawling in Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club,” “Quid Pro Quo” would make you feel as if you had entered the Twilight Zone.

Nick Stahl plays Isaac Knott, a New York radio personality who lost his parents and the use of his legs in a car accident in his youth. Through an anonymous tip, he uncovers a support group for the wannabe disabled. Inexplicably, he doesn’t perceive them to be mocking his misfortune. Instead, he obsesses over what makes them tick and the unorthodox steps they are willing take in order to paralyze themselves (one example being a poisonous potion from the mysterious Orient). While most group members decline his interview requests, Fiona (Vera Farmiga) agrees to satisfy Issac’s curiosity in exchange for his firsthand account of what it really feels like to be disabled — hence the title.

Messrs. Ballard and Palahniuk employed such subcultures in their novels as metaphors to satirize consumerism and modernity. But in “Quid Pro Quo,” the cult of the wannabe disabled doesn’t stand for anything else. What’s more, the film supposes that there may be no such thing as disability; it might actually be a delusion. Isaac eventually finds a pair of magical shoes in an antique shop that miraculously cure his paralysis, which suggests that he, too, may have been faking his own paralysis for some psychological reason, thereby legitimizing the quest of the hopefuls.

The ensuing psychobabble isn’t convincing enough to justify how the film trivializes the day-to-day travails of the physically challenged. In order to buy into Mr. Brooks’s little show-and-tell, one would have to be naive enough also to believe in faith healing.

The New York Sun

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