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I'm still not completely sure what this movie was exactly about. The
initial layer suggests a story about an insecure bloke who tries to
escape his run aground life through lucid dreaming. Real life and the
dream world coincide as he finds out that the woman he is pushing away
from his life is actually the one he wants to stay with. People trying
to dig beyond this layer have some difficulty. Not because this movie
is especially deep but simply because there's not much beyond it
Do movies have to be deep or insightful? Of course they don't. But this one to me suggested it may become that. And when it didn't, it left me feel a bit dissatisfied.
With an interesting story nonetheless, solid acting throughout, some great jokes and appealing visuals this movie rises well above the average Hollywood production. What it simply lacks are some really poignant scenes and build up towards the end. But just like the main character Gary who never rises above himself, the movie doesn't either. But maybe that was the whole point.
That said, there's absolutely no harm in bringing this one home for a view.
Saw the world premiere showing of the Good Night at the Sundance Film
Festival last week and have come to report back on my findings. Was
really looking forward to this one, story sounded interesting in an
Eternal Sunshine kinda way, and the cast is top notch. The Good Night
stars Martin Freeman as former brit pop star Gary, who hasn't exactly
been doing a whole lot since his famed band went on the skids. Gary
lives a less then fulfilling life with his long time girlfriend Dora,
played by the excellent Gywenth Paltrow, and keeps company with
successful ex bandmate Paul, played by the hilarious Simon Pegg. Gary
spends his days doing meaningless commercial gigs in which his creative
talents are kept in check in order to create more familiar music that
sounds like the theme from "Cheers". Understandably Gary needs an
outlet from his less then stellar career and from his almost
non-existent relationship with Dora. One night Garys finds that outlet
in his dreams, more specifically in the perfect female form played by
Penelope Cruz. Desperate to escape reality Gary finds himself wanting
more to live in his sleeping life then in his real life and he finds an
unusual guide in Mel, played by Danny Devito. Mel mentors Gary on this
lucid dreaming and soon Gary finds himself mastering his dreams, but in
reality his good nights are turning into bad days.
Sounds interesting but does it work, well not so much. Much like a dream the story is scatter shot and incomplete. We only get a glimpse into the characters lives and as the story goes along we still don't have a lot of info here. Does Gary want to be a pop star again, is he jealous of the success of his friend, does he really care about his girlfriend - did he ever and whats so special about his dream girl? Gary is as lost in life as he is on the audience, he feels distant as do most of the characters here, aside from the amusing Paul. In the end this movie just doesn't quite work out, maybe it wasn't supposed just like a dream. All that being said its a nice first movie by Jake Paltrow, he's got a good vision and his effort here is obviously promising but frankly the story was beneath his directing talents. As for the actors, Martin Freeman, Gywenth, Devito - all very good work but again the story just is so-so and the acting can't save that. The Good Night, just a decent night at the movies
It's pretty obvious that first-time director/screenwriter Jake Paltrow
was heavily inspired by Michel Gondry's surreal, off-kilter work in
"The Science of Sleep" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" in
making this downbeat 2007 dramedy. Barely in theaters before heading
right to DVD, the film works on an intriguing (albeit unoriginal)
premise but is then undermined by a muddy execution and unlikable
characters despite some nice visuals. The plot concerns put-upon Gary,
a TV commercial jingle writer who was once an '80's Britpop star. His
professional life has become a drudge as he begrudgingly works with his
best pal and former bandmate Paul, who has sold his soul to become a
successful advertising executive. Meanwhile, life at home is no picnic
since Gary has to suffer from the constant passive-aggressive derision
of his frumpy, needling girlfriend Dora.
Into this emotional void, Gary starts to have vivid dreams of a beautiful fantasy woman named Anna, who turns out to have a basis in reality. It's no wonder that Gary seeks the counsel of a "lucid dreaming" expert from New Jersey named Mel who helps him find ways to elongate the dreams for fear of having them evaporate entirely. Once all this is all established, Paltrow lets the film flail around in a series of frustrating scenes that have Gary turning more and more into an emotional zombie. Moreover, the marked contrast between Dora and Anna comes across as overstated with the result being complete indifference toward both women. Paltrow also uses a framing device of documentary-like testimonials from colleagues in Gary's past, a technique that doesn't make sense until the abrupt ending. None of the principal actors are terribly remarkable here except Simon Pegg ("Shaun of the Dead", "Hot Fuzz") who brings a much-needed energetic brio to the comically unsavory role of Paul. His cutting scenes with Gary are the best the movie offers.
As Gary, Martin Freeman (BBC's "The Office", "Breaking and Entering") is likeably dweeby at first, though he doesn't make credible his past as a debauched rock star. Danny DeVito merely plays a plot device in his customary matter and not much more as Mel. No matter how gorgeous she is (and she truly is in this film), Penélope Cruz is given short shrift by the script, so much so that her character remains incoherent and incomplete. But ironically, a worse fate befalls the filmmaker's famous sister Gwyneth, who has been so deglamorized as Dora as to render her character nearly unsalvageable. Granted there are some funny, off-the-cuff bits like Dora reacting to Gary's maniacal installation of foam over the bedroom windows by asking if it comes in white or Gary inexplicably reading "The Idiot's Guide to Understanding Iraq" in bed, but there isn't enough such cleverness to sustain the film. At 93 minutes, it actually feels overlong. The 2008 DVD provides a rather inchoate commentary from Jake Paltrow that is not very insightful.
I see that this movie isn't well-received. . .? . . . ---I loved it!
I like dark humor, and subtlety, and a script that trusts the viewer enough to simply suggest what's happening, and this movie satisfies all of that. Written and directed by Jake Paltrow, starring a mostly British cast of Martin Freeman, sister Gwyneth, Penelope Cruz, Simon Pegg, and Danny DeVito in a strange ensemble none of whom seem to really know one another. There's a sense that this movie isn't really happening, that the characters aren't sure who or what they are to one another, that the action may or may not be delusional: dream? not-dream? the boundary edges of reality have been softened or erased to the point of ambiguity. I believe this is what the director was striving for, and he got it perfectly.
I am still reeling by the few comments I saw that disliked this movie--- --were we watching the same flick?
Jake has captured the ennui and uncertainty of intimate relationships, especially when artistic personalities are involved. Wishes are faded, hopes for success, mega- or otherwise, are withering or stunted, and the concept of "dreaming" becomes itself part of the uncertainty of the storyline---an uncertainty purposefully part of the script. We live our dreams, we get caught up in our dreams, yet our dreams exist often aside from how we live. And who's to say what's real? Is night consciousness less or more than daytime consciousness? Nothing is 100% real.
I don't want to give anything away. I hate spoilers if I haven't seen a movie, and don't want to even accidentally mention something that would detract from another's enjoyment of discovery. Freeman's character is going through a minor meltdown, his life increasingly one on the outside looking in. He's "married," but the love and desire has diminished for both of them. He seeks help from a most unlikely (and most unprofessional) pseudotherapist, DeVito, and the reality of his life begins to unravel as he struggles the more to make sense of it all. It is a brilliant study of a mentally ill and conflicted world with pervasive fears and worries. The cast is excellent. Couldn't be better.
I love this movie. I love its dark humor, and its subtlety. Well done, Jake!
Making a movie about dreams or dreaming is tough, and it shows in this
one. The difficulty with dreams in any bit of fiction is that they
can't be held accountable; that is, by definition, there isn't any kind
of direct correspondence between dream occurrences and narrative
significance. A dream (singular) here and there can enrich a narrative
with symbolism, causality, subconscious, but when the dream becomes
plural then almost universally a story starts to break down. Having
gritted my teeth through movies like Waking Life and The Cell, to name
a few, I've come to associate "dream" with "lazy" in cinema.
That being said, I had to see what Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman would do in a movie together. And the bottom line is, due to these two guys, the movie is worth a watch. Don't may more than $4 to see it.
What you get really is a movie without consequences. You have Martin Freeman obsessed with a dream character. OK, kind of interesting, but there's not enough dimension to his girlfriend (Paltrow), who just seems like a nag, or his friend/former bandmate (Pegg), who, granted, is extremely funny but ultimately without Pathos, to really make his dream obsession a truly engrossing psychological/sociological study.
And again, what happens here is that the dream sequences, and even the obsession with them, because of the, by definition, incommensurable quality of dreams, their inability to be authentically expressed through proxy (language, film, journals, etc.), leave us as audience members bereft of any feeling of causality, arc, or direction.
Also, as a sidenote, the pseudo-documentary format that the film opens with and halfheartedly maintains is confusing and ultimately misdirecting. It ends up looking like the mistake of a novice director.
Martin Freeman performs his lines well, Pegg is funny, DeVito is a pleasing eccentric, and Paltrow isn't as annoying as she usually is (however Cruz is somewhat intolerable), so the movie is worth seeing once, if you've got nothing better to do.
I'm an American living in Prague and was so moved to see this film. It builds with a steady, undying attention to the details of a relationship we don't normally comment on to an end that literally jolts you out of your seat. I haven't seen a film like this in a long while. It's stuck with me for days. Rarely do you see someone confront depression, the search for one's talent and a longing for something more in such a sophisticated form. It explores the human condition as movies once did. It makes you dream. The actors take on roles we have never seen them in. Danny DeVito as a destroyed man lost in his broken mind, Simon Pegg as a hilarious trouble maker, Gwyneth Paltrow as a brunette who's tired of her stagnant life, Penelope Cruz as a dream girl out of a European fantasy, michael gambon and jarvis cocker as guest narrators with a harsh wit and its star, the disappointed and fractured Martin Freeman lost in his dreams.
Saw this one.... loved it. Variety sums it up perfectly.
"Sweet dreams, indeed. As becalmed and refreshing as a good night's sleep, writer-director Jake Paltrow's first feature delves assuredly into the mind of a lost soul who literally encounters the woman of his dreams. Though its forays into the subconscious may strike more adventurous cinematic palettes as precious and unimaginative, few will be able to resist Martin Freeman's appealing lead turn or the wry Brit wit that gives this fanciful confection a robust comic core. Given the right push emphasizing its marquee names, "The Good Night" could hit sleeper status. Compared to David Lynch's convulsive dreamscapes and Michel Gondry's "The Science of Sleep" - all films that seek to strand the viewer in an impenetrable chain of dream logic -- "The Good Night's" fascination with hallucination and reverie doesn't go much deeper than the surface level. Fortunately, it's an enchanting surface that doesn't wear out its welcome for a good 93 minutes.
Puzzling mock-doc prologue introduces a trio of characters discussing the life of sad-sack musician Gary Sheller in tones of hushed regret. Of the three, only Paul ("Shaun of the Dead's" Simon Pegg) plays a part in the story that follows, set two years earlier.
Gary (Freeman) is a thirtysomething Londoner now living in New York, a nice but hapless bloke with all the detritus of a movie midlife crisis. Since his band broke up seven years ago, he has eked out a living scoring TV commercials, to the increasing chagrin of his mildly depressive live-in girlfriend Dora (the helmer's sister, Gwyneth Paltrow). Even worse, Gary's friend and former bandmate, Paul, is doing quite well for himself in an advertising career.
Given Dora's irritable demeanor and Gary's tendency to aggravate it by saying exactly the wrong thing, it's no surprise that their love life is mutually unsatisfying. So when Gary starts having recurring dreams about a beguiling mystery woman (Penelope Cruz) who seems to offer more of herself to him every night, they have a rejuvenating effect. Wanting more, he takes an active interest in lucid dreaming - the act of becoming aware of and even controlling one's dream state - getting all sorts of tips from a New Age-y, self-styled expert (an amusing Danny DeVito).
Gary's growing obsession with manipulating his nocturnal entertainment - he sound-proofs his bedroom and gets cranky whenever he's awakened mid-dream - doesn't improve his relationship with Dora; somehow, even Paul's foolhardy dalliances in cybersex manage to widen the rift. Eventually Dora announces they need time apart and jets off to Venice, leaving Gary to indulge his fantasies to the fullest.
But after a wide-awake Gary sees Anna's face plastered on the side of a bus, he soon learns she's a real-life model (whose actual name, Melodia, strikes a rather obvious note), and Paul all too conveniently books her for a commercial. The foundation for Gary's discovery and face-to-face meeting with his fantasy lover isn't particularly well-laid, but by this point, the script has set a fascinating structural dilemma for itself, and Gary and Melodia's waking interactions easily compel one's interest and anticipation.
Subsequent plot turns are anything but predictable, and the tale begins to take on a quiet gravity as Gary's fantasy life is increasingly infected by his reality. The moving denouement is both a testament to the power and necessity of dreams and a bittersweet acknowledgment of their limitations.
With so many first-time helmers lately piling on the flash and visual gimmickry, the measured pacing and almost crystalline purity of Jake Paltrow's direction can't help but come as a soothing relief. The film-making is arguably too tasteful at times; intriguing as they are, Gary's dream sequences are absent any real sense of mystery or danger, and the use of stately fade-ins and fade-outs as delineating markers leads to some rhythmic awkwardness. In "The Science of Sleep," dreams and reality blurred together inscrutably; here, they exist opaquely side-by-side.
Best known Stateside for "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and the BBC's "The Office," Freeman carries the movie in his sleep, so to speak, showing terrific leading-man chops in a delightfully shaggy, self-effacing role. Continuing her dowdy-brunette look from "Running With Scissors," Gwyneth Paltrow comes through with a prickly, witty characterization that, despite a maudlin streak, occasionally lets the sun peek through.
Supporting perfs are similarly well handled. Looking as ravishing as she did in "Volver" (with no small help from Verity Hawkes' splendid costumes, including one striking white tux), Cruz breaks her so-called English-language curse with a role that requires her to be seductive and not much else. Needless to say, she acquits herself admirably. And Pegg, with his crack comic timing, pockets every other scene as Gary's lovable bastard of a best friend.
Production design is aces, the predominantly gray scheme of Gary and Dora's dreary apartment providing a "Wizard of Oz"-like contrast with the vivid colors and textures of the film's dreamscape; Giles Nuttgen's cinematography astutely follows in kind. Alec Puro's unobtrusively melodic score, which incorporating a tender composition Gary writes late in the picture, plays an especially significant role.
Gotham-set pic was largely filmed in London -- a disjunction that, given the film's Anglophilic bent, almost makes sense."
There's something about dreams that requires relaxation and patience.
They have a certain fluidity about them that if they're hurried or
rushed they just aren't as effective. As is fitting for a film about
dreams, "The Good Night" works because of good acting and gentle
pacing. The result is one of those good old fashioned dark comedies
that walks the line between drama and dark humor.
Martin Freeman is one of these actors that takes grips on the "average guy" role and has as much fun as he can with it. As Gary, the band member turned commercial music composer, he is effective in demonstrating his lack of joy in his current relationship with Dora (Gwyneth Paltrow) and sinking into obsessive dreams about the make believe Anna (Penelope Cruz). Freeman is always a good lead because no matter what he does, he's likable and we're always rooting him on, even as Dora calls him a jerk and she's probably right at one point.
But a lot of the humor in the film comes from the supporting players. Simon Pegg is always a no brainer for comedy because of his spot on delivery. As Gary's friend and boss, Paul, he jumps into the role of the somewhat amoral friend with his own relationship problems. However, he does still listen to Gary and even takes joy in some of his obsessiveness.
Then there's Danny Devito, playing the typical Danny Devito character as he hosts a dream support group but works odd jobs and hasn't had a relationship of his own for over 40 years. Despite all this, he still hears Gary out and Gary takes a lot of his advice. Devito has a lot of good one liners and a very funny introduction scene.
As to the movie as a whole, it's good but not great. Definitely worth a look. Part of me saw this as a dark comedy going through the motions and becoming very predictable as we got closer to the end. The premise was very fresh though and director Jake Paltrow really seizes the opportunity of capturing the dreamlike quality of some of the scenes. The performances and well paced direction really glue the movie together though, and at 90 minutes, it's not a bad movie to give a watch.
It is probably wise to take it easy on first venture by writer/director
personas who probably would not have had their initial film see the
light of day (or dark of theater) were it not for the connections of a
famous show biz family. But Jake Paltrow did indeed achieve this goal
so with the idea in mind that this is an initial outing so its best to
look for the reasons this little film works and the reasons it could be
Gary Shaller (Martin Freeman) is an artist on the skids: he has a history of being a successful songwriter/musician but now is woefully stuck writing asinine jingles for second rate TV shows. His home life is no better as his wife Dora (Gweneth Paltrow) is a nagging discontent whiner. And he is now thirty-four years old with little hope for change. All of this is brought into clear focus by the quite opposite life of his best friend Paul (Simon Pegg) who seems to have it all right. Gary encounters dream whisperer Mel (Danny DeVito) who introduces him to Lucid Dreaming - and Gary somnolently discovers the beautiful, smart, sexy Anna (Penelope Cruz), the woman of his 'dreams' who crosses over being imagined and being real - and who adores Gary. And this discovery and the manner in which Gary deals with it forms the solution of the story.
The idea of lucid dreaming has been used before (Inception, The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine, etc), but the concept is strong enough that Jake Paltrow's offering of his version is not a problem. Many parts of the film are sweet, but in general it drags and refuses to flesh out the characters enough to make us really care. But as a story about choosing between dream life and real life, a bit of Shakespeare would help: 'We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.'
If indie dramas are to believed, there are essentially two reasons why
there is so much unhappiness in the world (at least among the more
privileged classes who have the time and resources to think of such
things): a) people can't stand the idea of being alone in the world,
yet they also can't stand the idea of being with another person for
long stretches of time either, and b) it's hard to come to terms with
the contrast between what we imagined our life would be like and what
it actually turned out to be.
A case in point is "The Good Night," a mid-life-crisis drama with a surrealistic twist. Gary is a songwriter/musician who used to be part of a band but who has now been reduced to writing commercial jingles and scores for second-rate TV shows. A somewhat de-glamorized Gwyneth Paltrow plays Gary's nagging long-time girlfriend who's definitely become disenchanted with their relationship, while the ultra-glamorous Penelope Cruz stars as the literal woman of his dreams until she materializes and becomes a part of his waking world that is. In fact, a fairly large chunk of the movie's running time is taken up with Gary's dreams, which inevitably feature this alluring figure who stands in obvious counterpoint to Dora's flesh-and-blood imperfections. And then there's Danny De Vito as the scene-stealing New Age dream-whisperer who attempts to maneuver Gary through his crisis.
The point of the film, written and directed by Jake Paltrow (brother of Gwyneth), seems to be that ideal worlds and ideal relationships exist only in dreams, and that, if you want to survive and maybe even find a little bit of happiness in this life, you had better start accepting some compromises and limitations and not, as Voltaire once opined, make the perfect the enemy of the good. Even Gary's dream-woman is eventually unmasked as a relatively pedestrian fashion model who definitely does not live up to the dreams and fantasies Gary has about her before he meets her in the actual flesh.
The movie does a nice job transitioning back and forth between the world of reality and the world of dreams, and the actors demonstrate an astute understanding of the roles they are playing. Some of the conversations and arguments the lovers engage in are almost too painfully realistic at times, with Dora, in particular, unloading her feelings on Gary to withering effect.
It's not exactly a world-shaking human drama, but it offers some insightful observations into those maddeningly messy things we euphemistically call "romantic relationships."
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