While the so-called phenomenon of having ‘a face for radio’ may lend itself to a possible equal opportunity flesh aesthetic according to the brooding and meditative Quid Prop Quo, the perfect physique might comfortably reside in that particular media as well. Or at least as conceived inside one’s head, or waking dream state.
Nick Stahl is Isaac Knott in Quid pro Quo, a sullen paraplegic and radio personality confined to a wheelchair since childhood, following a car crash which killed his parents. A kind of urban griot of the airwaves, Knott is into introspective storytelling, and at the moment as it touches upon disability. That is, the contrasting manner in which the handicapped and the AB (able bodied) see themselves and the world around them.
Weighing the pros and cons of his dismal situation, including a girlfriend in the process of dumping him for an AB, Knott in an unusual glass-is-half-full state of mind, sets up an ongoing exploratory series
on his show delving into what the AB population just might really envy about the disabled. More specifically, the no-pun-intended position paraplegics find themselves in, with the odd luxury of ‘getting to sit down’ and simply observe and absorb the world around them, without having to bear any responsibility for its ongoing upkeep.
While investigating these notions in seeming waking and dream states alike, Knott- whose name takes on meaning loaded with symbolism connected to his absence of active life as a shadow of his imagined AB self – encounters a highly unusual cult dedicated to a yearning for one’s own personal set of disabilities. This, after he receives word from a mysterious woman about a man showing up at an emergency ward pleading with a doctor to cut off his healthy leg, in exchange for a huge sum of money.
That woman turns out to be the entrancing, enigmatic femme fatale, Fiona (Vera Farmiga). The two are soon drawn into a tempestuous affair, during which Fiona strips off her clothes down to sexy underwear accessorized with come-hither metal walking braces, as some sort of kinky foreplay. And Knott for his part, becomes fixated on a particular pair of shoes in a store window that he’s certain will enable him to walk again.
Not exactly Bunuel’s differently abled erotica classic Tristana, Quid Pro Quo is nonetheless hauntingly steeped in borderline surreal mood and atmosphere. And the film raises all sorts of mystifying questions about disability as a state of mind, in what is medically labeled body integrity disorder. But like it’s physically immobilized protagonist, Quid Pro Quo has an overall stagnant sensibility and lack of narrative momentum that never quite seems to leave the dramatic starting gate. And whether the ultimate clues to this mind over matter mystery reside in sex, shoes or tulips, hypochondriacs beware.
2 1/2 stars