CAPSULE: THE PERFECT SLEEP (2009)

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DIRECTED BY: Jeremy Alter

FEATURING: Anton Pardoe, Roselyn Sanchez, Patrick Bauchau

PLOT: In a dark, nameless city, a man must return to a city in which he is despised to

Still from The Perfect Sleep (2009)

save the life of “the one who got away.” He must travel to the rotten heart of this noirish nightscape to get her back, putting his life at risk and his very soul at hazard while navigating the streets and his own past for clues as to her whereabouts.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: While the features of a shadowy noir city full of hyper-naturally Hammett-esque characters smack of something rather strange, it really isn’t all that odd, nor is it really that good.  It’s more of a hyperbolic homage, a sort of tip-of-the-hat to the noir films of the 40s and 50s that’s so hard and abrupt that it tips the person under the hat.  There’s tribute, there’s parody, and then there’s The Perfect Sleep, both somewhere in-between as well as something else entirely.

COMMENTS: There’s something to be said for the positively assaulting aesthetics that pervade this film.  This town The Perfect Sleep exists in, extreme (and extremely hilarious) anachronisms aside, fully commits to the idea of the dark and atmospheric urban sprawl that populated so many crime dramas after World War II.  Every alleyway seems dangerous, and nobody is who you think they are once you pass them in the night that seems to last forever.  But once one soaks in the impressive scenery, The Perfect Sleep quickly becomes a bland song-and-dance routine that feels like an amalgam of Last Man Standing, Dark City, and Double Indemnity, aped poorly and without the safety net of an exorbitant budget.  I feel, personally, that this movie’s prime directive should have been to let me in on the story at hand, what will be happening soon.  Instead, we are allowed to get lost while the hero, Anton Pardoe, reads exposition distantly from a poor script.  It’s like the story, and what our nameless hero is doing, is none of our business, and we’re supposed to just continue blithely along, hoping it will all get sorted out in the end.  The Perfect Sleep makes for a very passive movie watching experience that could have taken an example from The Big Sleep, a noir that had a rather weak story but a dynamic style that kept everyone engaged, thus making the mile-long plot holes seem to vanish into thin air.  Instead of taking a page from that movie, though, we find ourselves locked into a story that the characters take incredibly seriously, but whose meaning is lost on the audience.  As a weird movie, I would not even suggest it for its unusual moments.  Some scenes, like when a freaky doctor punctures the lungs of a couple of strangers with a scalpel, work as unorthodox thriller moments or unnerving horror.  But these moments are insignificant compared to the massive time spent amidst the cliches of a period crime drama/dark gangster flick. The critics were, for the most part, unanimous about The Perfect Sleep‘s banality, and I’m afraid I have to throw my hat into the ring with them, this time.  It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and there’s nothing very weird about that.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Unfortunately, Alter’s often inventive work is kneecapped by a deliriously nonsensical script, which misses the mark as both over-the-top parody and straight-faced homage, and could have been intended as either.”-Andrew Barker, Variety

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