How's this for a premise? A young reporter who lost the use of his legs in a childhood car accident is asked to look into a group of handicap "wannabes" before he falls in love with a physically-abled woman who, yep, desperately wants to be a paraplegic. Sounds pretty outlandish, doesn't it? But the truth is that there ARE people out there who'd prefer to be wheelchair-bound -- as "crazy" as that might sound to you and me. Strange but true, folks, and Carlos Brooks' oddly illuminating Quid Pro Quo does an appreciably good job of delving into some rather arcane issues.
Although he needs a wheelchair to get around, radio journalist Isaac Knot (get it? I Sick. Not.) is by no means disabled. Aside from the fact that he can't stand or walk, Isaac has no problem getting around New York City, chasing down story leads, and handling a fairly normal social life. (Aside from all the skittish single chicks who get freaked out at the sight of a wheelchair, that is, and all those lazy cab drivers.)
But when a decidedly strange story hits the wire -- apparently a man recently walked into a hospital and offered a doctor $250,000 to amputate a perfectly healthy leg -- Isaac becomes intrigued. Professional interest turns into personal business when a mysterious (and sexy!) informant pops up and offers Isaac an odd exclusive: She'll introduce him to the world of "wannabes" if he teaches her what it's like to be stuck in a chair all the time.
The lovely (but clearly somewhat strange) Fiona does a lot more than explain her desires to Isaac; she literally shares them with the semi-smitten reporter. As their relationship gets deeper, Fiona becomes more and more convinced that "intentional paralysis" is what she truly wants -- but obviously Isaac is going to do what he can to talk her out of it. But things take a strange turn (more than one, actually) and the affair between Isaac and Fiona becomes a whole lot more ... co-dependent.
Taken as a low-key cross between Garden State, The Waterdance and Cronenberg's Crash (now there's a weird combo), there's a good deal to like about the weird but well-intentioned Quid Pro Quo. Some of the "wannabe" stuff gets a little creepy (and borderline ridiculous, truth be told) but some excellent work from the underrated Nick Stahl and the always-hypnotic Vera Farmiga manage to elevate the flick through the few rough spots. And if it sounds like this is a pretty bizarre premise for a romantic drama, well heck, I guess that's why we have film festivals. It's not like an odd romance between a semi-paralyzed radio reporter and a slightly-insane museum curator is going to knock down the box office walls, but there's always something to be said for a little flick that takes chances on potentially strange subject matter.
Worth seeing for the two leads alone, Quid Pro Quo has some pretty insightful things to say about the nature of being "disabled," and it says them with a good deal of humor, style, and understanding. And even if the movie slows down once or twice, you can just sit back and stare at Ms. Farmiga's stunningly beautiful eyes. That's what I do with all her movies!