|Page 1 of 6:||     |
|Index||51 reviews in total|
40 out of 44 people found the following review useful:
Not quite enough to be enough, 18 February 2003
Author: Kevin J. Cunningham (brutesentiment) from SF Bay Area, California
The Sleeping Dictionary should be noted mostly for being the biggest
opportunity of shooting star Jessica Alba. This film was her only film
between the first and second seasons of "Dark Angel,' the show that turned
into a sensation, but quickly died a network death at the end of season 2,
thus ending the heat index on the lovely Miss Alba. The tragedy is this
good showcase of her and her abilities (rather than just her), was
delayed, pushed off and kept from theater screens, only to be released
video far too long after her star dimmed.
As with any product here, you can get the synopsis elsewhere, so don't look for it here. I'll try not to spoil anything, but take note if you read this, then watch the movie, you may get tipped off as to what I'm vaguely referencing. If that bothers you, come back after you watch!
This is a film that had a good idea, and good execution of what the idea turned into. Unfortunately, a little bit more planning would have helped. At 109 minutes, this film won't bore you, but it could have been rightfully intriguing with 20-30 minutes of good plot added.
The film is carried on the sound filmmaking and charm of it's actors. In particular, Alba is enchanting. She plays the part with the seriousness it was intended, and never lets her intentionally accented English fall into 'stupid foreigner' stereotype, a tough job for many young actors and actresses who have attempted the same. Her partner, Hugh Dancy, is good enough. He channels a little bit like a scrawny Heath Ledger, but never quite gets rugged enough.
The other joy of the cast is the ever-underrated Bob Hoskins. By coincidence, I saw 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' just hours before watching 'Sleeping Dictionary,' and am never let down by his appearances in films. He plays a character who isn't written subtly enough; still, he acts it. The endless looks of "Damn bloody fool. Good for him, the w***er" scattered through the film isn't enough for a man of his caliber, but we'll take what we can get.
Their performances are weaved together well by Writer/Director Guy Jenkin, who is making his big screen debut as a director, though his writing career goes back to the late '70's without much acclaim. Directing-wise, he knows what he is doing. The camera work is graceful and beautiful, and he compliments the fantastic elements of the story well. As a writer, well, there are things left to be desired.
Most of all, this film seems too short. The story is predictable, but it never drags. The love scenes are contrived, as is the underdeveloped climax, but that's not where the film is weak. The characters are cleverly set up to be mirrors, and the overlapping triangles are so complex they rival those brainteasers that ask 'how many triangles are in this picture?' The problem is, the most important one is never realized, because of the lack of development between Dancy and his best friend within the tribe. Without much difficulty, and a little more time, that relationship alone would have lifted this film from not quite enough to a good, if not better, movie.
As a result, you're left with a film that doesn't challenge anything because it just challenges the same old things. But it is romantic, and has much more spark than many other movies you may see of this type. For that, and a young actress who has way too much fire to just disappear at this point of her career, this film is worth seeing.
37 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful Romance Better and Better than Webster's and American Heritage Dictionaries, 27 August 2005
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In 1936, the expatriated young and naive just-graduated British John
Truscott (Hugh Dancy) arrives to the Sarawak, a British colony, to work
in the Iban society. The beautiful Selima (Jessica Alba) is assigned to
be his "sleeping dictionary", to live and sleep with him and teach him
the language and habits of the locals. The reluctant John and Selima
fall in love for each other in a forbidden romance.
What a magnificent surprise "The Sleeping Dictionary" was for me, indeed a wonderful romance, with action and drama and an adorable story of difference of cultures, seduction and secrets. Jessica Alba and Hugh Dancy have stunning performances, showing a delightful chemistry. Brenda Blethyn and Bob Hoskins are excellent, as usual, and Noah Taylor, as the nasty Neville, Emily Mortimer, as the sweet Cecil and Eugene Salleh, as Belansai, are also fantastic. Certainly, Jessica Alba is better and better than Webster's and American Heritage Dictionaries. Definitely, "The Sleeping Dictionary" is a must-see movie for any sensitive audience. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Dicionário de Cama" ("Dictionary of Bed")
20 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
A Classic Love vs Tradition Story, 29 June 2004
Author: adrianbu from United Kingdom
I watched this film after reading the reviews made by others here and i
have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it even if I am, outwardly, the
perfect example of emotionally repressed male.
Firstly, it isn't going to win Oscars for anything really but that really isn't the point at all and nor should it be. It's a gentle, almost passive, love story that focuses in on the characters but uses their respective backgrounds and the limitations of their society's expectations as a character in its own right. All set in a time and place sufficiently remote to suspend disbelief, but close enough, to enable the viewer to relate.
It's well written, directed, filmed and acted with the actors delivering more than adequate performances that are sufficient to actually care what happens to them.
For the repressed male, like me, who is considering watching this film out of duty to his girlfriend, don't be disheartened you will most likely enjoy it if you allow yourself to. If nothing else the lovely Jessica Alba continues to enchant the male audience with nothing but her screen presence and in some scenes her lack of clothes.
For the female and non-repressed males, I recommend this film to you, not as classic but a sweet, enchanting and humorous love story. You will no doubt only watch the film once but then repeated viewings will add little.
It is what it is and nothing more but for a film of this type that's all it should be and that's all it tries to be.
For this reason and this reason only I gave this film 9/10 for they achieved what they set out to achieve
29 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful social history, 13 July 2003
Author: Tim Johnson from Fremantle, Australia
My wife and I watched this film not knowing anything about it except a two
sentence introduction on a movie-card. We were impressed by all aspects of
it-particularly the substance of the script-it was a brave script-a script
that should have made people uncomfortable because of the swipes taken at
British colonialism and what that evil did on a personal level to everybody
concerned. Living as I do in Western Australia, the dark legacy of European
colonialism is just below the surface and I have seen firsthand the outlines
of the story presented in "The Sleeping Dictionary"-not of course the same
geography or the same details but once colonialism left its tread on the
floor of world history it matters little the particulars.
The enormity of the personal tragedy of that period is something not to be derisively dismissed as one commentator remarked-as a film fit for screening at the old folks home on a Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately the world is still dealing with that evil period of recent history.
I was moved by all the decisions that the characters faced throughout the film. Brenda Blethyn's character as the wife of Hoskin's colonial official was as much a victim as anybody in the film. Although she emerges as the "baddie" she must try, with little background, to stitch together a semblance of what she feels is an acceptable canvas in order to paint her English life-such of it as there is in Sarawak. And what of Hoskin's torn character-a man who can only fall back on "duty" to country in order to find reason for the completion of duties that he recognizes as damaging to all involved.
A brave film-look for it!
20 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Engaging romance, beautiful scenery, 9 March 2004
Author: Elmer Saunders from Plano, TX USA
While overseas, I had heard the concept of the movie and the fact the
appealing Jessica Alba was featured but had little chance to check on the
actual film. When I returned to the USA late last year, I found the film
had gone directly to video with limited availability (couldn't get it at
Blockbuster, for instance). I am glad that I wound up buying a copy
(although I found a 'used' DVD for half the new asking
It is a shame the film never appeared in theaters as the visuals of Sarawak would have been great on the large screen and the audio and music are well done and would have benefited from a theatrical environment.
BELOW IS DISCUSSION OF PLOT ELEMENTS WHICH MIGHT SPOIL IT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM.
While overall the plot line was reasonable and avoided cliche, there were a number of disconnects as far as I was concerned.
Truscott's dilemma with Bullard after the miners' slaughter arrives too abruptly and presumes some sort of offscreen confession. Since it is a central conflict in the drama, it really deserves more explanation.
Similarly, the "one year later" leap to Truscott's marrying Cecil Bullard lacked sincerity. Why would Truscutt marry the daughter of those who wedged him away from his true love? While one can imagine various possibilities, the lack of on screen justification left me unfulfilled.
Finally, even after conversion by Sarawak and its people, Truscutt is still too much of a proper Englishman to credibly leave a pregnant wife. Some of the sympathy I'd built up for the forbidden lovers was undercut by the way this was handled. It would have been far better for Cecil to push a reluctant Truscutt away.
Still, these plot issues are relatively small in comparison to a film, cast and cinematography that rose well above the small budget and unheralded distribution. I rarely buy videos or DVDs because I find I seldom go back to play them, but this one I will enjoy owning.
30 out of 45 people found the following review useful:
A puzzling film, 22 February 2003
Author: tprofumo from Los Angeles
The puzzle is, why did this film go directly to video and why isn't it a
Fineline apparently relegated this to the video bins because of a crowded release schedule, but more likely because it had just one American star in it, Jessica Alba, and her TV series, "Dark Angel," had been canceled, meaning she no longer brought any "heat" to the project.
That's a shame, because this film is light years better than most direct to video releases.
While the plot is quite complicated, it is basically about a young Englishman, played by Hugh Dancey, who goes out to Sawawak (Borneo) in the mid-thirties to follow in his father's footsteps and bring the benefits of a good English education to the natives and headhunters of the region.
He needs to pick up the language, though, and thus is assigned a "sleeping dictionary" a fetching young local woman who will teach him the native lingo, while giving him an education in bed at the same time. While that may sound as contrived a plot as you could find, it is probably grounded in fact, and certainly grounded in solid, British upper class hypocrisy of that day, which, taking into account the fact that he'll be there for three years, sees no reason why he can't avail himself of the local talent to satisfy his sexual needs. In fact, when he initially rejects the beautiful Jessica Alba, they offer him a young man, he being the product of British boys schools and all that.
After a very brief period of conflict, Dancey and Alba fall head over heels for each other, decide they want to marry, and find themselves in hot water from that point on. The film goes on to rightfully bash British upper class racial prejudice, but never quite deals with the key issue facing Dancey's character. Does he ever catch on that the education he wanted to bring to the natives is the same education that says, one Englishman is worth a thousand natives?
Anyway, the film, written and directed by Guy Jenkin, is fairly well scripted, well directed and absolutely beautifully shot. Word is, it cost just $15 million, but it has the look of a much more expensive picture, definitely not some cut rate direct to video thriller. This is not some prison women in cages film shot in the Philippines.
There are some good characterizations here. Bob Hoskins starts out very strong as the cynical governor of this province, but then is very under utilized. Brenda Blethyn is fantasic as Hoskins wife, a manipulative upper class snob who is the real villain of the story.
But there are script problems here. Dancey and Alba fall in love far too quickly, skipping over a lot of character build up which would have made us care for them a lot more than we wind up doing. There is sympathy for them, though, because of the obvious class and racial biases in the British empire. But you get the feeling there are a lot of missed opportunities here.
Perhaps the biggest flaw the film has are its two stars, though. Dancey,pretty much unknown in America, seems only adequate to me. He brings no real passion to the role of the young idealist.
The real enigma, of course, is Jessica Alba. Although as beautiful as any young actress in Hollywood today, she has yet to prove that she can actually act, and with every successive missed opportunity, she is building up a body of work that says maybe she can't. Her first feature staring role was in a flic called "Paranoid," in which she was frankly just plain dreadful. She has had supporting roles in a couple of other films, but the pictures were so dreadful you couldn't hang much of the blame on her, except maybe in her choice of roles. Her big break came in the James Cameron produced TV series "Dark Angel," which got its wings clipped after two seasons. In it, Abla was forced to play a rather depressing character in a depressing show and she could not get deep enough into it to make it the kind of hit that Jennifer Garner became in "Alias."
In Sleeping Dictionary, Alba definitely looks like someone any man would want to sleep with, but other than that seems in many ways miscast completely. I read one review here that mistakenly places this movie in South America. I wonder if the producers made the same mistake. The days when any dark skinned actress can play any dark skinned character, from Latino to Asian to Arabic, appear to be over to me. Alba didn't seem like a resident of Borneo. She in many ways seemed like a wise ass girl from East Los Angeles.
Then there's the main problem, her delivery of lines. Alba is excellent when she keeps her mouth shut. No, really, she does reaction shots extremely well. Her emotions play out beautifully on her face. It's when she has to talk that she often finds herself in trouble. In this film, much of her delivery of her lines was just short of bad.
More importantly, it wasn't good and that makes this film another big missed chance for Jessica Alba. It's too bad, because she was in part hampered by an under developed character, which may have been hampered by a restricted budget. Ten more minutes showing us who the main characters really were might have made all the difference in this film. But Alba still would have had to be good enough to handle the added material and I still don't know if she is.
She supposedly has another film in the works in which she plays some kind of hiphop dancer. Hopefully, at least playing the right race, she'll shine. But she just misses the mark for me in "Sleeping Dictionary" as she has missed it in everything she's done since "Flipper."
21 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
One of the Best Films of 2002, 18 July 2003
Author: xyler from United States
Although THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY is not that well known and never had a
theatrical release, it is by far one of the best movies of 2002. My
had to pursuade me to first rent, then watch this movie because the idea
a British colonial officer who falls in love with what is known as a
Sleeping Dictionary...that is a native woman who sleeps with a man while
teaching him the native language. Jessica Alba, who is most well known
her stint on "DARK ANGEL", deftly portrays Selima, the native sleeping
dictionary for John Truscott. Hugh Dancy, who portrays John Truscott, is
young british actor who is on his way up. Dancy and Alba have chemistry,
and you can hardly take your eyes off of them. The supporting cast is
excellent. Brenda Blethyn, Bob Hoskins, Emily Mortimer, Noah Taylor,
Inocian, and Eugene Salleh each portray their parts perfectly and add a
unique flavor to the movie.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being lowest, 10 highest), I rate THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY a 10.
12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
love-across-the-tracks, remixed......, 21 January 2004
Author: Jimmy_fingers from Cheltenham, England
Liked this film a lot. A rework of the classic Romeo and Juliet
impossible-love scenario, it managed to stand out from the crowd, not
because of the impressive cinematography (helped in no small part by the
wonderful locales and the beautiful tribes people (The Iban). While never
being earth-shattering, for a film to watch with a loved one (without
too girly) this is hard to top IMO. It shows the moral struggle of a man
has to choose between 'duty' and love. The arrogance and conditioning of
British colonialism is dealt with well, as we struggled to impose our
European values and God on peoples in far flung corners, and indeed it
the irony that we struggled to retain it ourselves as the beauty of the
place and people intoxicated our men (a few cads apart)
Watch it with wifey/girlfriend/prospective mate
14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
a beautiful film, 30 July 2006
Author: Willow V from Spain
This was an excellent film and brought back a lot of memories of my
time with the Iban people in Sarawak. The costumes, the people, the
scenery...these would all be worth watching the movie even without a
good plot. There are some priceless moments in it including a
conversation with the cook about drunkenness and wages and the
relationship between the young Englishman and the Iban people he is
supposed to be governing. The Iban have a well developed sense of
humor. Overall the plot is enjoyable. I'm not a fan of romances, but
this was well done and gave a unique glimpse into a people who are
still very much the same to this day (minus the actual head hunting).
If you have ever dreamed of an adventure in Borneo, watch this first...it will convince you of the beauty and the need to go.
12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
A nice idea badly executed, 15 January 2004
Author: astronic from Dortmund, Germany
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all, I really liked the general concept of this film. The idea of a young Englishmen falling in love with a native girl from a British colony surely isn't that original, but it hasn't been overused either.
Furthermore I hoped to get a glimpse of the life in British colonies at that time (especially the social interacting between the British colonial rulers and the native people) and, of course, Jessica Alba.
Well, for those primarily interested in the latter one: Yes, her character has nude scenes, but no, they obviously aren't performed by Jessica Alba. Speaking of that: In my opinion the body double did not even fit Jessica's "size"; they could have done a lot better at this point.
As I stated initially, I really liked this films premise, but the execution comes close to the worst you could have made out of it.
First of all: The movie is fractioned. While this doesn't has to be necessarily bad, each fraction gets it's own little climax, whilst there's nowhere a main climax on sight. Even that could work, if those little climax' would do their job, unfortunately they don't. That's mainly because the film doesn't spend the time to develop them, instead it rushes to get a climax done in order to start another one.
For example: John's "I don't want to have sex unmarried"-dance at the very beginning (lasted maybe 5 minutes and was resolved by pure horniness), their trip to the dying jungle people ("oh look, it's because of the poison, let's tell them and go home"), the matter of John's first departure from Sarawak, his relation to his wife, the attempted murder and death trial afterwards, Henry's relation to Selima, (and so on, and so on). Everything seemed flat, rushed and undeveloped.
For no obvious they made a plot-driven film out of a people-story. That can't work out. The ending concludes this greatly, you virtually could hear the director's thoughts: "Oh, well, we've 2 minutes and some budget left. Let's bring in the bad guy with a gun".
On the pro-side the native/Englishmen relations are done quiet nicely, and not every character is stereotypical; I especially enjoyed the role of Cecil for that matter. The cinematography could've been worse but never reached the potential it doubtlessly had. I'd rank Simon Boswell's score slightly but definitely above average. Speaking of Jessica Alba's performance, well: Her role consists mainly of walking around and looking pretty, she did that without getting injured and if you've seen her in "Idle Hands", that's worth something.
At the end I saw a movie whose creators couldn't fill the (very solid) plot with life. That's particularly sad, since I'd could've been a great film.
|Page 1 of 6:||     |
|External reviews||Parents Guide||Official site|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|