MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 1, 2021: STOP AND GO

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Time has moved differently since March 2020, often slowing to a glacial crawl. For that reason, the charming road comedy Stop and Go — which is set during the early days of Covid-19 — already feels quaintly nostalgic. Remember when we doused everything in Lysol? And changed clothes after coming back from the store? And were terrified our loved ones would catch Covid and die? (Hmm. Maybe things haven’t changed so much since lockdown started after all.)

The film centers on Millennial sisters Jamie (Whitney Call, who also co-wrote the film) and Blake (Mallory Everton, who co-wrote with Call and co-directed with Stephen Meek). In the blink of an eye, they go from celebrating Jamie’s 30th birthday with a host of friends — all singing, coughing, and generally being in each other’s faces (the horror!) — to huddling together inside their house in Albuquerque, terrified of what the news is telling them about the novel coronavirus and the rapidly snowballing pandemic. A story about the especially dangerous conditions at nursing homes spurs them to brave the outside world and drive to Washington to pick up their beloved Nana (Anne Sward Hansen).

Since this is a road movie, the sisters face obstacles on their way; since this is a Covid road movie, those obstacles involve newly fraught situations like touching gas pump handles, getting within six feet of strangers, arguing with a pandemic-denying relative (“the tickets for my cruise were SO cheap!”), and figuring out how to take a three-day trip without using a public bathroom. Along the way, they have quippy exchanges and sing-alongs, dance in the desert, and try to navigate Blake’s connection with a Tinder date she met right before the world shut down.

It’s a very familiar plot structure, but Call and Everton’s charisma and chemistry make Stop and Go feel fresh. The dialogue they penned for themselves is snappy and smart, and they clearly love working together. That last point becomes even clearer when the movie’s credits roll over endearing home-video footage of Call and Everton as tweens/young teens filming comic bits and sketches. You realize just how long they’ve been working toward an achievement like making their very own movie — here’s hoping they make many more. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Sherin Nicole A pair of sisters, who are thankfully free of resentment and genuinely adore one another, go on a wacky cross-country drive to save their grandmother from a COVID-19 outbreak at a questionable nursing home. Written by its stars, Whitney Call and Mallory Everton, Stop and Go is filled with an all-white squad of awkward characters who nevertheless avoid cliches. The trip is unpredictable and eventful. The pacing is fast. Yet I constantly pondered: Is this funny? Am I meant to be laughing? And if those are the questions you’re asking yourself, you probably already know the answers.

Nell Minow: Whitney Call and Mallory Everton are irresistibly charming in this comedy that evokes the uncertainty and panic of the early days of the COVID-19 shutdown and the endless pleasures of spending time with those who are home to us. Sharing their road trip as they effortlessly riff off of each other and unquestioningly support each other makes this the kind of journey that leaves us wanting to spend more time with them.

Susan Wloszczyna: It takes some mega moxie to put the pedal to the metal for a road-trip comedy set during the scary early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. But somehow Stop and Go, whose unfortunate too-on-the nose original title was Recovery, delivers just enough relatable amusement and zesty fun thanks to its leading ladies and screenwriters, Whitney Call and Mallory Everton, who co-directs with Stephen Meek. Read full review.

Pam Grady: Jamie (Whitney Call) and Blake (Mallory Everton) are roommates as well as sisters, so when the world locks down for COVID in March 2020, they are prepared to weather it in isolation together—until they get word that their grandmother’s nursing home is infested with the disease. Then what starts out as parody of the early days of pandemic when obsessive sanitizing and paranoia of even the most benign human exchanges went hand in hand transforms into a road trip as the women frantically race from New Mexico to Washington to rescue Nana (Anne Sward Hansen). No COVID tropes go unremarked upon as these chatty siblings brave germ-infested gas pumps, face down a hostile biker, and FaceTime with oblivious older sister Erin (Julia Jolley), who is away ignoring the sick and dying while trying to enjoy a cruise. Call and Everton, friends since childhood, wrote the screenplay (Everton co-directs with Stephen Meek) and it is their comfortable, easygoing chemistry that lights this comic exploration of our recent past.

Leslie Combemale Stop and Go (originally called Recovery) will ring true to most women who have a close relationship with either a sibling or a sister of the heart. What makes the film most interesting, even from this close distance to the early days of the pandemic, is that the jokes and observations specific to that time are very on point and will get funnier as we hopefully get more distance between ourselves and the pandemic. Though we’ll be dealing with it for the foreseeable future, Stop and Go will make (vaccinated) viewers feel like things are getting better from the horrors of 2020 and early 2021.

Jennifer Merin Stop and Go is a quirky and amusing drama about two gals who just wanna have fun, even though there is a a pandemic raging on and limiting their social lives to…each other. Whitney Call and Mallory Everton, who co-wrote the script (Everton also co-directed with Stephen Meeks), star as sisters Jamie and Blake who are BFFs and share a penchant for humorous riffing on all sorts of issues and burst into popular songs as a way of coping with life’s circumstances — even the most serious kind. The sisters find themselves taking an unexpected road trip to rescue their beloved grandmother from a nursing home where she is in danger of being exposed to COVID. They face and overcome a number of pandemic-related challenges along the way. This cinematic bit of pandemic-related silliness is releasing just in the nick of time to entertain moviegoers who are up for a little levity.

Loren King It looks like the ongoing pandemic has spawned a new genre, the COVID comedy. Stop and Go, created by Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek, stars Everton and Whitney Call as two sisters, Blake and Jamie, who are hunkered down in quarantine in March 2020 during the early days of the pandemic. The two stars are likable, with their deliberately dorky, self-deprecating banter. Screen appeal is a necessity since they carry the film. When their Nana needs to be sprung from a COVID-plagued nursing home — although Nana seems much too young and able to be in a nursing home but—Blake and Jamie nervously pack up the car and hit the road. Much of the film is set in the car during the long drive punctuated by desolate pit stops where the sisters avoid contact with anyone else. Even when their running sardonic banter resorts to dick and fart jokes, they never trivialize COVID or dismiss the scariness or deadliness of their circumstances. Stop and Go nails much of the bleak state of mind of the past year when gallows humor is both a coping mechanism and a balm.

Sandie Angulo Chen: After a few scenes of watching Stop and Go, the thought occurred to me that it was like Broad City without the raunchy jokes. That’s because the writer-stars Whitney Call and Mallory Everton are old friends from Studio C, Brigham Young University’s sketch-comedy troupe – explaining the lack of cursing or overtly sexual commentary (although just enough suggestive materials to not make it feel aimed specifically at an LDS crowd). The actor-filmmakers have a natural chemistry playing sisters and roommates Blake and Jamie, who must take a middle-of-Covid quarantine road trip from New Mexico to Washington State to pick up their grandmother from a senior home experiencing a scary outbreak. It’s clear how comfortable Call and Everton are with one another and with improvising (especially the scenes in the car). Not a lot happens in the movie (which is on point for the pandemic setting), but the charming performers are easy to cheer for and to laugh with, and sometimes that’s more than enough in a comedy.

Liz Whittemore Crisp cinematography and genuinely laugh-out-loud situational comedy make Stop and Go a real gem. With a slew of features made during the lockdown, don’t count this one out for a moment. This one deals with the pandemic with wholly relatable hilarity. The writing and performances are most likely so funny based on the fact that writers/stars Whitney Call and Mallory Everton have been best friends forever. It would be impossible to determine what is scripted and what is improvised. Call and Everton manage to find levity in the ways we have been forced to adapt; dealing with those who are, shall we say, less than committed to others’ safety, finding things to keep ourselves motivated, and coming to the rescue of our loved ones. This is a classic road movie on steroids. It is everything you need it to be, and a million tiny things more. As a bonus, the soundtrack is fun and eclectic. I could have easily watched an entire series based on this script. As it stands, Stop and Go will more than satisfy your funny bone, acting almost as a much-needed catharsis 18 months into the continuing pandemic. If you’re not doubled over with laughter while watching this movie, I will be shocked.

Cate Marquis Comedian co-writers Whitney Call and Mallory Everton co-star as sisters in Stop and Go, a Covid road picture comedy that is surprisingly funny. Shortly after the pandemic lock-down starts, the two New Mexico-based sisters, Jamie and Blake, get a call about a Covid outbreak at the Washington state nursing home where their beloved Nana (Anne Sward Hansen) lives. The pair hit the road to rescue Nana, after discovering that their other sister, who lives nearby, has gone on a cruise (“The tickets were so cheap”), unconvinced this Covid stuff is serious. The comedy skips the usual road trip companions squabbling, and instead finds comic conflict from the mother of a student watching the classroom mice for teacher Jamie, Blake’s romantic anxiety about a guy Blake had exactly one date with before the lock-down, and pandemic dilemmas like touching the gas pump handle without gloves. The humor is fast, energetic, offbeat and funny, as the two joke, sing, goof around, and while there is plenty of bathroom humor, they skip the obvious jokes about toilet paper shortages.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Stop and Go (formerly Recovery)

Directors: Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek

Release Date: October 1, 2021

Running Time: 80 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriters: Whitney Call and Mallory Everton

Distribution Company: DECAL

Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).