The art of translation can be problematic…
Stand! (inspired by the stage musical Strike!) may have been critically acclaimed while on the stage and undoubtedly highlights an ugly period in our countries history, but it’s a sloppy, maudlin, overlong and poorly performed affair that probably shouldn’t have been made in the first place.
Stand! (and the stage musical on which it is based ) is set 100 years ago against a backdrop of civil unrest and a violent general strike that changed Canada’s history. The story follows an immigrant Romeo & Juliet in 1919 as they battle for love and a better life on the streets of Winnipeg, amid political and social turmoil. Stefan and his father Mike fled Ukraine for the New World, where they struggle to earn enough to reunite the family. Stefan is instantly smitten with the Jewish suffragette neighbour, Rebecca, but Rebecca’s brother Moishe and Mike oppose the would-be couple. Meanwhile, soldiers returning from WWI are angry at the lack of jobs after the war and violently threaten the city’s immigrants, including Emma, a refugee from racial strife in Oklahoma. When a movement develops for workers to leave their jobs in protest, a wealthy lawyer pits all against each other in a dramatic and inspirational final stand.
While we can’t in good conscience say that this isn’t an important story to be told given all the social strife in the world that it mirrors in so many ways, there’s simply no denying that as a movie musical adaptation this Stand! just falls over limp from beginning to end.
There’s no denying the content and the meat of this story means well, but the over long narrative with a lack of nuanced performers makes this a pretty yet truly painful watch.
Director Robert Adetuyi has certainly staged a good looking film as money was put into photography and production design but that only takes you so far. Written by Danny Schur and Rick Chafe who wrote it for the stage and a CBC Radio adaptation bring it to the screen in such a clunky fashion that it’s a little sad. While sticking to the broad dialogue of the stage the story ends up feeling incredibly hammy with actors who can only pull off Jewish and Ukrainian accents that are bordering on offensive do bring it all down. The singing is pleasant enough, but there are no real breakout performers and it’s all only passable. The musical numbers are too spread out and with actors who drop all accents when they launch into song and it makes for a distracting experience.
Ultimately, Stand! is cut off at the knees before it even gets going. Sure it’s a socially important story that deserves to be told and remembered but with weak performances and broad writing that doesn’t translate to the screen, this movie never has a chance to be anything other than a borderline offensive mess.