new indie drama Sleepwalking is neither as artistic nor as insightful
as it would like to think it is, however, it is an intriguing if
occasionally melodramatic look at the problems of broken down and
desperately poor people in the world.
hard to dislike because it obviously is made with great love and good
intentions. You just wish the actual film was a little better.
film starts with Charlize Theron playing very well, granted one of her
slumming disturbing lower-class women. Joleen is an aging beauty who is
thrown out of her home when the latest of a long line of boyfriends is
arrested for growing drugs. She is lectured by a stern, but actually
concerned cop (played by an uncredited Mathew St. Patrick of Six Feet
Under) that she has to straighten up her life for her sake and that of
nowhere else to go, Joleen takes her eleven-year-old daughter Tara (AnnaSophia
Robb of Bridge to Terabithia) and decides to stay in the decrepit
apartment of her brother James (Nick Stahl of Terminator 3). He is a
shy, repressed, broken-down construction worker. Within a matter of days
Joleen disappears without a word apparently with another one of her guys
leaving Tara to live with James, who has very little money and absolutely no
experience with children.
James loses his job and home, Tara is sent to a foster home. Eventually the
two go on the lam, pretending to be father and daughter while taking a long
road trip to the farm where James and Joleen grew up.
movie is presented as the story of James. However, while he is a pivotal
character, the film really revolves around Tara.
Therefore, it is important that they found such a good young actress as Robb
to play the role. A girl who has previously been mostly in fantasy films,
she shows amazing range in this almost disturbingly realistic film. Robb
captures the resignation and resentment of a little girl who is forced by
circumstance to grow up long before her time. She even does a surprisingly
adult and whimsical fantasy sequence as a cigarette-puffing dreamgirl at a
James and Tara finally reach the old farmhouse where James grew up and meet
his father, we come to realize a lot of the reason why the brother and
sister are so badly damaged. Dennis Hopper is terrific in the role a mean
old viper of a man who will do anything to break his charges and yet the
character is so unlikable you have to wonder about the sanity and fitness of
James. In introducing Tara into that environment, he seems to be even more
unfit to be a parent as Joleen.
script skirts over several of these obvious plot holes for example why
does James keep apologizing to Tara for her mother not being home for her
birthday as Joleen had promised when James and Tara have moved and even if
Joleen were to return she would have no way to reach them and they would
have no way to know whether or not she had been there.
more importantly, it was a significant plotting error not to show us
anything that Joleen was experiencing while she was gone. I know the film
was trying to focus on the growing relationship between the uncle and
niece. However, by making her just disappear for a huge chunk of the film,
when Joleen eventually does show back up desperately searching for her
daughter it is harder to buy. The audience (or Family Services, for that
matter) can't help but find it hard to overlook
the fact she just abandoned the girl and believe
that Joleen is suddenly a fit and loving mother.
is a film which has some amazing acting, beautiful scenery and some
wonderfully surreal moments. Too bad it is all at service of a somewhat
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: March 10, 2008.