Latin meaning ”this for that” an equal exchange, Quid Pro Quo is the first feature film by Carlos Brooks released by Magnolia Pictures in 2008. Actor Nick Stahl who played John Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, as well as roles in Spin City, The Thin Red Line, Bully, Safe Passage, and Sleepwalking, plays the central character Isaac Knott, a semi-paraplegic wheelchair reporter in Quid Pro Quo.
As a New York public radio reporter Isaac Knott begins to recount a story about himself live on-air. Telling when he was eight, his mother and father died in an automobile accident that left him in a wheelchair. Almost forcing us to feel the dark curiosity that turns heads when passing an accident scene Isaac lays his trauma out welcoming.
Continuing his story, Isaac reports that he recently received an anonymous tip from someone identified only as “Ancient Chinese Girl.” She tells him a perfectly able-bodied man walked into an emergency ward downtown, and attempted to bribe a doctor into amputating his leg.
In the course of his investigation, he meets Fiona played by Vera Farmiga, the aforementioned Ancient Chinese Girl. Though she is neither ancient nor Chinese, she is nevertheless supremely attractive, highly intelligent and therefore very secretive keeping to herself. Fiona guides Isaac to a netherworld of people afflicted with a seemingly perverse desire to be disabled.
Seduced by her beauty and intelligence Isaac is quick to suspect that Fiona herself may be a “wannabe.” When he confronts her she protests, “I don’t want to be paralyzed, I already am paralyzed.“ Isaac realizes he must decipher the puzzle of her fantasy motivations before they manifest into an all-too-real, if not fatal, reality.
Along the way, he navigates a semi-surreal world of talismanic items like an antique Milwaukee Brace, a pair of shoes called “spectators,” and a paralyzing chemical called “Ginger Jake.” Events become increasingly extraordinary as Isaac discovers that Fiona does indeed have a terrible agenda, one that resonates in long buried memories of his own past.
Many of the best detective stories evolve in such a way that the story ends up that the detective has actually been investigating himself. Quid Pro Quo’s modern day detective is a public radio investigative reporter Isaac Knott (Nick Stahl) who just happens to be confined to a wheel chair. In the course of doing a story about disability wanna-be’s, Isaac traverses a surreal world of fetishism and transgressive eroticism that recalls the unique perspectives of Luis Bunuel and Alfred Hitchcock.
In many ways, Isaac’s “story” is really a journey into his psyche and personal fears. And the totemic clues he discovers during his investigation: a wheelchair, a Milwaukee brace, a pair of shoes are always more than their literal reality. In the context of the film, these items are objects of fetishistic worship. And as such, they become transcendental. A wheelchair is a wheelchair, until it is viewed as a device that possesses the power to delineate someone as “special,” in other words, “handicapped.” It then becomes not so much a conventional transport as a machine that creates pity and empathy.
Granted, all this presupposes a perverse perspective into the way we look at things. But in the course of Isaac’s investigation, he finds Fiona (Vera Farmiga) — or she finds him — and she offers him a window into a dark place that exists somewhere between reality and dreams. Her life’s aspiration is to be crippled, or at least perceived as such. She’s beautiful and successful, yet she longs to be physically destroyed to regain some spiritual transcendence in her life. Her complexity, along with her erotic compulsions, prove irresistible to Isaac.
This quixotic entanglement between reality and its reinterpretation through desire is the heart and soul of Quid Pro Quo. Isaac is drawn to Fiona’s dark side because somewhere in the strata of her perversion lies an underlying truth about himself. He is confined to a wheelchair because of an accident. What can he possibly learn about himself from Fiona’s desire to be like him? In Quid Pro Quo the answer of course is everything.
Carlos Brooks Director
Commenting on the tone of his first feature film, director Carlos Brooks noted:
I told the actors in rehearsal to think of the story as unfolding entirely within that moment that transpires between deep sleep and wakefulness. So from the earliest rehearsals and creative discussions, all the way through scoring and final sound design, we approached the film within that framework, that the film itself should be experienced as a kind of dream. Even to the extent that we avoided the usual overtly “dreamy” film making and editing tricks, in favor of a straightforward style that would, like an actual dream, invite you to perceive it as real.” — Carlos Brooks
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- Magnolia Films 2008, Quid Pro Quo: http://www.magpictures.com/profile.aspx?id=de9568da-e055-494d-827b-5a87e208b82e
- Wikipedia defintions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quid_pro_quo
- You Tube, Quid Pro Quo Movie Tralier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sqjyh-yxK1Q