Review: Run, don’t walk, away from quirky social satire ‘Stanleyville’

A woman sitting on the floor amid boxes and blankets.
Susanne Wuest in the movie “Stanleyville.”
(Oscilloscope Laboratories)

What starts out as a screwball “Squid Game” ultimately yields a paltry payoff in the case of “Stanleyville,” a self-consciously quirky social satire that is content to coast on its waning surface weirdness.

Taking it personally when a bird crashes, unnoticed by others, into her office window, meek Maria (Susanne Wuest, the stern Mutter in cult favorite “Goodnight Mommy”) has abruptly abandoned her equally oblivious family to embark on a fresh start when she’s approached by a stranger (Julian Richings) wearing a cheap nylon backpack and the demeanor of an undertaker.

For your safety

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the CDC and local health officials.


He informs her that she’s been selected, along with four other random individuals, to partake in a special contest that will reward the winner with “authentic personal transcendence,” not to mention a habanero orange sports utility vehicle.

Among Maria’s competitors are a gym rat (George Tchortov) and an entitled brat (Christian Serritiello) who have names like Bofill Pancreas and Andrew Frisbee Jr. and whose life-affirming challenges include blowing up balloons until they pop and composing inspirational national anthems.

Unfortunately, while actor-turned-director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos obviously had something to say regarding society’s worst impulses, he and co-writer Rob Benvie must have felt all the paper-thin stereotypes and goofy tasks were enough to sustain what amounts to a stagy, protracted acting exercise that grows awfully tedious awfully fast.

By the time Maria and company see fit to start fleeing for an exit, chances are good more than a few hapless viewers will have beaten them to it.


Not rated

Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Starting April 22, Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood