Martin Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Simon Pegg, Penelope Cruz
Mel: The human default setting is loneliness, man. Sadness is a guarantee.
Gary (Freeman) is a former rock star who has settled into a mundane life as a commercial jingle writer, and his wife, Dora (Paltrow), has grown weary of his detachment from life. Gary starts to have strange, but enjoyable dreams about another woman, and then starts to explore lucid dreaming as a way to spend more time in his dreams. As he gets better at this, the line between dreams and real life starts to get blurred.
Have you ever been dreaming, suddenly realized that you were dreaming, and then tried to take control of the dream, only to wake up? I’m always disappointed when that happens. I was just about to go flying like superman!
Well, that’s the experience Gary Shaller has in this movie. Everything looks more beautiful in his dreams, the woman he meets there (Penelope Cruz) inspires him, and he doesn’t have to deal with the problems he has in real life. The only thing that would make it better is to have control of the situation and stay there longer. For this, he turns to Mel (Danny DeVito), an expert in lucid dreaming…and holder of several random part time jobs. He both teaches Gary the finer points of lucid dreaming and warns him about the dangers of getting too absorbed by that alternate world. I enjoyed DeVito’s odd, but understated performance. Sometimes he tries a little too hard, but he’s funny and sympathetic here.
I thought the performances were all good, in fact. Gwyneth Paltrow is funny when she’s angry, and she does a nice job of maintaining some amount of likability, even though she’s frustrated and angry most of the movie. Simon Pegg is subdued, but still enjoyable as Gary’s best friend, and former band mate. He still doesn’t want to leave behind the rock and roll lifestyle they had years ago. At least, he thinks he doesn’t. In fact, there’s a myriad of characters who aren’t sure of what they want in life or how they’d get it even if they were sure.
This movie has all the feel of a Charlie Kaufman script, but doesn’t quite achieve the wit and depth of his writing. Instead, it meanders along, without a lot of energy, at just a quick enough pace to maintain interest. The dream sequences aren’t imaginative enough, and also, maybe it’s just me, but Penelope Cruz just doesn’t seem like the right actress for the dream girl role. It’s not a question of attractiveness, it’s about her look. It needed to be somebody who has a good combination of being captivating while simultaneously being a little bit creepy. Natascha McElhone, in Solaris, is a good example.
I liked the idea of this movie, and as I mentioned, the performances were all fine. It just needed a more well written script, and the main ideas needed to be fleshed out a little bit more. It’s missing a level of complexity that would have made it very memorable. As is, it’s interesting while you’re watching it, but forgettable when it’s over. Kind of like a dream.
Look both ways before crossing the street.
10 – 2.5 for lacking a certain complexity/energy/heart that would have pushed it to another level – .7 for the dream sequences being too dull and for Cruz not being a very dreamy girl = 6.8