I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Critic
Best known for his roles in AVATAR, GRANDMA’S BOY and on the hit-show BONES, Joel David Moore, has had quite the illustrious career. Before doing the whole Hollywood gig, Moore started in commercials and worked his way up to landing roles in films.
His big break came in 2004 when he starred alongside Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn in DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY. But now, you can catch Moore’s leading performance in his new film, #STUCK.
#STUCK tells the story of an unlikely couple (Moore and Madeline Zima) meeting in a bar, having a one-night stand, and waking up the following morning to get backward to their normal lives to just be mystified in non-moving traffic. The situation forces them to get to know each other. Do sparks fly, or is it the most miserable 90 minutes of their lives?
Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to speak with Moore about the film, first encounters and TITANIC. I mean, why not?
Hey, Joel. How are you doing, man?
Joel David Moore: “Hey, Preston. How’s it going?”
It’s going pretty well.
Moore: “So, Fresh Fiction, huh? Where are you guys based out of?”
We’re located in Dallas.
Moore: “Ah, I love Dallas. I shot my first pilot in Dallas.”
Oh, yeah? Where at in Dallas.
Moore: “At Dallas’ Love Field airport. It was a show about a decade ago called LAX. Spent a month there. It’s a nice place.”
That’s crazy. I live right next to Love Field. Like a minute away.
Moore: “Yikes! Lots of planes.”
Yeah, but really it’s not that bad. You can’t hear them that much, and the view is pretty cool.
Moore: “That’s cool. So, how’s it going?”
It’s going great. I watched #STUCK this morning, and found myself laughing and really having a good time.
Moore: “Well, thanks, man. Yeah, we’re really excited about it. We’re excited about people seeing it. It’s been a long journey to get it out in theaters and on VOD. This is what every filmmaker wants, you know? You have a lot of films that come and go, but we knew that this would be a film that audiences would enjoy.”
Definitely. It has a really neat concept of modern relationships and first encounters. It makes me think that it should be mandatory for new couples, or dating people, to be locked up or “stuck” somewhere where they can actually have a conversation, without putting these faces on. Just being who you really are. You know what I mean?
Moore: “Exactly! That was pretty much Stuart Acher‘s agenda when writing it. That’s the engine that is running through it the entire time. There’s a lot of comedy and corky stuff. There’s some fun and some romance.
It’s a little bit of a forum to kind of say, ‘Hey, look, guys. Stop everything and just talk to each other. Sh*t, man. That person is right there.’ You’ll never know unless you look up from your phone. Does it take getting stuck in traffic for an hour-and-a-half to really get to know somebody?
And yeah, this is what was interesting to me about the project from the beginning – knowing that we’re going to have to keep audiences alive and awake with not being able to move, with just two people talking and getting to know each other. But I think we’re at odds enough in the movie that it creates enough conflict throughout to finally turnaround. Guy and Holly are coming from two separate sides of love. One is a monogamist, and the other is the complete opposite. He can’t get a relationship going at all. The longest relationship he has had may be with the girl who he’s stuck in the car with [Laughs].
It’s really two people coming from different walks of romantic life getting thrown together and being forced to get to know each other along the way. And what can come out of that is two people who think they have nothing in common having a lot more in common than they originally thought [Call drops].
Sorry about that. Technology. Damn you, technology. Speaking of, one of my favorite lines in the film is when my character, Gus, is talking to Holly. She has some texts coming in, and he looks over at her, ‘another vibrating device that men have to compete with.'”
[Laughs] I told my wife about that line in the film and she started laughing.
Moore: “Yeah, it’s just fun. Stuart can quip. He can write a quippy script.”
He can shoot a film really well, too. I really like the way that he shot it. It was really clever.
Moore: “Yeah! It is really clever. The POV stuff is really interesting.”
How did you do the mirror scenes, where it shows you looking directly in the mirror as if you were the camera?
Moore: “So, the mirror scene is, I think, one of the cooler shots in the film. We actually just painted out the camera. The camera was behind us. We didn’t have a rig on or anything. We just painted the camera out from behind us.
[Stuart] did some really cool stuff with the camera when Maddy starts crying and wiping her tears away; there’s that whole bend of the frame. With Stuart, you’re not just doing something for nothing. You’re not doing it because it looks cool; you’re doing it to tell a story. Along the way, when you’re dealing with two people who have to make tough decisions – at that moment, it’s also a moment of clarity for both of our lives. She’s going down a path that she doesn’t feel comfortable with. She’s making decisions that she may regret, but she has like a f*ck it moments and just goes for it. While in meantime, I’m looking in another mirror, but I am the complete opposite where I am a guy who does have this happen all the time and I’m not sure if I am wanting to go down this road again.
So it’s just two people kind of through drinks, dancing and a bit of romance coming into a scenario where they actually want the opposite things for once. We thought that would last and make a good story. Then they get stuck in a car for a friggin’ hour-and-a-half and have to get to know each other.”
This may be really awkward of me to say, but I really like that the sex scenes are presented in a real way. Often times in romantic-comedies, sex will just be this really Hollywood, perfect thing that never happens when you first meet someone. How different do you think a movie like TITANIC would have been if sex were presented in a real way?
Moore: “Right. Like when Rose asks Jack to draw her like one of his French girls, but in real life he would draw a stick figure and be too drunk and too much of a boner to figure out what’s going on. [Laughs] That would be interesting.
But yeah, I think we do a good job at that because it is very awkward. When people do find themselves in that one-night stand scenarios, they’re not the most romantic of evenings. You don’t look back and go, ‘Oh yeah! I did a good job with that.’ You probably look back and say, ‘What exactly happened? Is she pregnant?’ [Laughs] That’s pretty much what you’re dealing with there.”
I don’t know if it is a spoiler moment or not to say we never find out why they are stuck in traffic. Was it an accident? We never know. It’s one of the those movie mysteries like PULP FICTION, where we never find out what’s in the briefcase.
Moore: “It’s very much so a PULP FICTION moment, and I think that’s something that we sort of referenced.”
Yeah, you have that “getting to know you chitchat line.”
Moore: “Yeah. It’s a call to the politics of civilization, I would say. If you have ever been in really bad traffic and then it starts to let up and you don’t get to see anything, you’re like, ‘WHAT?! I want to see what actually happened after sitting in traffic for that long.’ But fortunately, because we’re not a*sholes, we don’t actually want to see anything bad to happen. But you have that little moment where you’re like, ‘WHAT?! There’s not even a car on fire or anything? What is going on here?’ So, yeah, I think traffic is the engine that keeps running throughout the film; it forces people to have conversations in their car and/or think.
But I think we have all been in awkward moments in life where we are just sitting there, forced into a conversation and you don’t want to talk or look at this person. On the other hand, eventually you may reach a moment with that person where they say something and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, that just started our friendship.’ It’s just people looking up from their cellphones, magazines or whatever it is, and just saying, ‘Hey! There’s people in front of us. There’s a whole world outside where I can just walk out and get involved with.’
That being said, please go and lock yourself in a theater and go watch our movie for an hour-and-a-half.”
#STUCK is available On Demand and is playing in select theaters now.