Monday, September 25, 2006

Oh, Grow Up!

Yesterday my wildly successful Sunday evening movie club was inaugurated for the third consecutive year with an outing to see Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep. I had a feeling it's a good omen to start out this year with a crappy movie and I was not disappointed. It sucks.
Now, I normally absolutely detest whimsy. Amelie, for instance, made me want to gag. (Compared to this one Amelie is like Proust). I knew this movie was going to be whimsical, but it had two things going for it: my compatriot Gael Garcia Bernal and the fact that Gondry has done well before. Some of his videos are truly fantastic, I really liked his Dave Chappelle: Block Party and I was well impressed with The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which he directed and which was written by Charlie Kaufman. And therein lies the rub. Because Mr. Gondry is not a writer, and as a writer, he is not even remotely close to Mr. Kaufman, although he'd like to be.
The Science of Sleep is a self-indulgent, sloppy movie about a guy, played by Gael (as he is known by his legions of female fans) who is an incurable dreamer and whose dreams he confuses with reality. The premise is interesting enough. But the character, instead of learning something about himself, or overcoming his problem, just becomes more childish and obnoxious as the film plods along.
I sort of felt sorry for the actors. Gael tried his best to infuse his non-role with charm. He was quite funny sometimes, his body language very comically precise, and surprisingly good at deadpan, although his character became tiresome very soon into the proceedings. Charlotte Gainsbourg, whose appeal as an actress I fail to understand, had even less to play against.
I have very little patience with the conceit of men who refuse to grow up. Men who behave like children are not interesting to me. Dramatically, it is far more interesting to see a character grow or change or respond to a challenge by adapting, than someone who doesn't learn anything about himself at all. By the end of this movie, the poor guy comes across like a real schmuck, she comes across like a long-suffering fool and you want your money back.
There are playful, mischievous writers and directors, like Charlie Kaufman or like the Coen Brothers, or even Spielberg, who are not monumentally self-obsessed and who craft their characters and their stories with great care. The Science of Sleep is sloppy and boring and hard to swallow.

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