Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Movie Review: The Science of Sleep

I was going to begin this review with some hyperbolic and misleading statements about the unprecedented effect this movie had on me, namely that it was the first time I've ever paid money to watch a movie and been unable to finish it. Then I remembered that Natural Bork Killers had the same effect on me, so Nyah.

I was really quite excited to watch The Science of Sleep. After watching the stunningly great Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and being enthralled by the story, the visual tricks, and the finest, most naturalistic performance from Jim Carrey in the history of... well, Jim Carrey, I thought Michel Gondry's next major film would really be something to look forward to. Sure, Eternal Sunshine had Charlie Kaufman attached to it, but I wasn't yet entirely sold on Kaufman's brilliance. Being John Malkovitch was great, true, but that might have been Spike Jonze's work, and for me, the only brilliance that Adaptation showed, was that Kauffman is a brilliant self promoter (I mean come on, how many other script writers are anywhere near as well known as the guy who put himself and his imaginary twin into a major motion picture?). No, I was willing to give Gondry plenty of credit of making a really great science fiction movie (the best of the decade, so far) and wanted badly to see his next film (not badly enough to rent it in a timely manner, mind you, I'm a grad student, give me a flippin' break).

The truth about the Science of Sleep is that it's a mess. It's a horrible, breathtakingly boring, mess of a movie. The movie is full of very clever imagery and the dream sequences are as close to matching the feel of a real dream as anything I've ever seen on film, I'll give him that. But there was no story there. The film is nominally about the life and dreams of a loser, Stephane, with a bad job, no real talent, and a crush on his new neighbor. He can't seem to keep reality and fantasy seperate in his life. Those are fine things for a movie. But when the story is anemic, we aren't given a reason to care about Stephane (or anyone else, for that matter), and it's very difficult for the viewer to tell what is supposed to be real and what is in Stephane's mind, there's no reason for me, the viewer to tune in. The whole work is self-indulgent, as though there was no one giving Gondry any kind of reality check about what might be interesting to people, what worked, what didn't. It's like a parody of a film-school senior thesis, but with a bigger budget. In fact, here, let me save you some time. Watch this clip, it's like the Science of Sleep, but it sucks on purpose:

Clip is from the woefully short-lived show: The Critic, but you should know that.

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