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"The Science of Sleep"

Directed by Michel Gondry.
Written by Michel Gondry.
Starring Gael García Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Emma de Caunes and Alain Chabat.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  9/2/06


After seeing the trailer for "The Science of Sleep" and then learning that it was directed by the same guy that did "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", I knew that there was a good chance that I should set my phaser to "wacko" before I walked into the theater.  This was a good move on my part, and the flick was pretty good to boot.

"The Science of Sleep" takes place both in the current real-life situation of Mexican/French son Stéphane Miroux (Gael García Bernal) and Stéphane's mind...and, what an active imagination he has!  After he moves to Paris to be closer to his French mom (Miou-Miou) following the death of his father, he gets work as a typesetter for a low-budget nude calendar maker; by night, he hangs out at his mom's apartment, where he lives across from Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg, from "My Wife is an Actress") and quickly takes a liking to her.  Much of Stéphane's interest in Stéphanie--as well as his anger over his work, his sketchy French, and his future--is played out in some pretty cool dream sequences, which frustrates some of the people around him in real life, who wonder why Stéphane has such a hard time taking grasp of reality.

Save for a bad final ten minutes (really, maybe even just the last five minutes), "The Science of Sleep" is a fun ride, cutting constantly between the real and not-so-real, as well as between spoken English, French and Spanish (the latter two are subtitled throughout).  Bernal is such a ridiculously awesome talent that it's a wonder he has time to NOT be working, since everything he touches seems to turn out well...he still hasn't made a justifiably bad move yet following his feature debut five or six years ago.  In this film, he's brilliant, at times awkward, awkwardly funny, a straight well-comically-timed jokester and a performer that creates empathy for his sad-sack dreamer.  And his French didn't seem nearly as bad as he makes his character sound; by that, I mean that one gets the sense that his French might be even better than it sounds here, but to stay in character, he occasionally has to misspeak.  The ability to work in so many kinds of films means that we're going to get more of him in Spanish, French (like this film) and American productions very soon, very often.

The rest of the cast is entertaining, although Gainsbourg is a bit distracting only because of her awkward look.  In terms of playing a part, she's great, but something about looking at her made me nervous, if that makes any sense.  The co-workers in the calendar shop end up populating many of Stéphane's dream sequences, many of which are hilarious, none better to me as the bit where Stéphane and Stéphanie try to outrun some Keystone-like cops, ending with Stéphane trying to get away in a cardboard car.  I love seeing movies where the performers just totally sell out to make a scene funny, especially when they are scenes as seemingly ridiculous as the ones in this film.

"The Science of Sleep" is 80% great, no doubt; it just doesn't end very well.  Otherwise, check this one out when it reaches theaters, hopefully soon!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09