Ted Fendt’s first feature, the refreshingly droll Short Stay, centers on Mike (Mike MacCherone), a passive, socially awkward twenty-something living in New Jersey. When Mark (Mark Simmons), one of Mike’s friends, decides to go to Poland for a few months, Mike sublets his apartment and takes over his job, providing free walking tours of the city. But Mark returns earlier than planned and kicks Mike out, refusing to pay back the extra rent. That summary is already far more dramatic than the film actually plays, since Fendt isn’t as concerned with incident as he is with putting the viewer into a very particular headspace, here observing Mike’s strange (anti-)charisma and social ineptitude. (An observation that the apartment has a loft is followed immediately by: “Do you make out up there?”) Relying less on scripted witticisms, the film finds its comedy in wry comic cuts, very particular speech rhythms and sharp, physical humor. Fendt and the cast commit to this understated, observational mode, which is engaging enough, if not necessarily revelatory or insightful. Short Stay is amusing enough while it lasts, even if it never really locates a satisfying endpoint. As its title may suggest, transitory pleasures are better than none.
Published as part of Vancouver International Film Festival 2016 | Dispatch 2.