The poster from The
Perfect Sleep has a quote from actor Gary Oldman - who is apparently not
involved with the movie but is kind of known for his own oddball
films. In his testimonial Oldman says enthusiastically, "It's film
noir on crack."
It's rather odd to see a
movie poster with a testimonial from an actor or someone who works in the
biz rather than a critic - that kind of
cross-promotion often happens in publishing but is rare in film. This
may at least partially be because we have no way of knowing what kind of
taste in movies Gary Oldman has, except for his own body of work, which does
not necessarily bode all that well for The Perfect Sleep.
However, credit where
credit is due, Oldman's statement pretty much does sum
up The Perfect Sleep - both its good qualities and its bad.
The Perfect Sleep
feels like what would happen if someone threw The Maltese Falcon, Sin
City, The Godfather, Crime and Punishment, Hannibal, Vertigo, Dallas and King Lear into
a blender, hit puree, and then poured the whole concoction in a post-modern
It takes place in this
weird otherworldly area which may be modern San Francisco or may be 1930s
New York or might even be an alternative universe.
It is dark, moody,
depressing and more than occasionally way too complicated and/or convoluted.
It is a stylish, violent, operatic, tragic, completely humorless and kind of
a mess. It is working so feverishly to be hard-boiled that it often
becomes overwrought. Yet at the same time it is often willfully
post-modern. The main character several times interrupts his tough guy
narration to comment on different camera shots and angles, winking at the
audience: This is only a movie, after all.
That narration is a good
example of the highs and lows of The Perfect Sleep. It
starts out rather intriguing but eventually goes on so ubiquitously that it
wears out its welcome. Entire swatches of the film have little
dialogue, just the main character droning on and on about the action we are
seeing on the screen. It is tough, it is street smart and it is all too
much. Star Anton Pardoe, who wrote the screenplay, obviously
missed the "show, don't tell" class at screenwriting school.
Yet, for all its
imperfections, The Perfect Sleep does have a seductive amphetamine
vibe which makes it unique and thus fascinating. It is all too rare to
find filmmakers who take real risks, so when you do find something new you
want to like it even with its provisos.
First-time director Jeremy
Alter has worked behind the scenes with David Lynch and the surreal visual
and storytelling style here are reminiscent of his mentor's more
mind-bending moments. Pardoe's screenplay has the somewhat formal and
stilted meter of Shakespeare, opera or epic poetry which gives the sudden
shocking violence more power - it's almost a narcotic effect, the filmmakers
are numbing us before striking.
The Perfect Sleep is
well acted by a mostly pretty unknown cast. Actress Roselyn Sanchez of
Without a Trace - who plays the woman that the hero has loved from afar
his whole life
- is one of the few recognizable faces in the film.
Short-lived 80s film star Michael Paré (Eddie and the Cruisers) also
pops up briefly to save the hero's life.
In the end, I doubt I will
ever feel the need to see The Perfect Sleep again, but I can see how
with a little TLC and word of mouth it could become a cult favorite.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: March 6, 2009.