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James "Speedy" Reedy is anything but. He's a twenty-something slacker sleepwalking through life in a Midwestern town. His older sister, Joleen calls him in the middle of the night after the police have arrested her boyfriend and tossed her and her 12-year-old daughter Tara on the street. James takes them in, then Joleen, who claims to have a plan, leaves with a trucker and a stash of drug money. James tries to cope, but soon he's lost his job, and child protective services places Tara in foster care. She's miserable. Can James wake up and find a way to be more than just a nice guy? A road trip to his childhood may hold a key, or it may be another bad dream. Written by
One night, Joleen Reedy's boyfriend is arrested in a drug raid, so she and her 12-year-old daughter Tara move in with her somewhat slow-witted brother, James.
Soon, Joleen follows her heart down the highway with a long-distance trucker, and when James loses his job and Tara starts missing school, it's not long before Child Protective Services shows up and Tara goes off to a group foster home.
This is a movie about coming of age. And, as the story develops in Act II, we have every right to believe this is Tara's story. She talks her uncle James into learning to drive, pushes him into searching for Joleen, and finally convinces him to help her take a hiatus from the group home. And so they hit the road. Along the way, they stop at a motel where she wakes up one night bathed symbolically in red light, and the next morning at poolside, she's squirming seductively for the benefit of a pair of adolescent boys who watch in fascination.
Eventually, their journey takes them to James' boyhood home, the ranch to which Joleen said she would not return in a million years. Why did she say that? The answer comes when James and Tara experience profound abuse from his father, a tough old rancher played by Dennis Hopper.
This is when the viewers will realize that this is James' story, because he does what he must to vindicate what must have been the horrific upbringing he and his sister endured.
"Sleepwalking" is put over with excellent performances, notably Nick Stahl's James, who grows into a man able to rise to the occasion when it's time to carve out a destiny from the wreckage of his past. Charlize Theron convincingly inhabits another fascinating character from the seamy side, showing glowing embers of yearning that burst into passion. And Hopper chews scenery entertainingly as the abusive rancher. The supporting cast is uniformly strong.
But the star of this show is AnnaSophia Robb, who makes Tara a child who realizes she needs to shed any air of fragility to press on with the quest to reunite with her mother. Driving past a message board flashing an Amber Alert with her name on it only steels Tara's determination to succeed.
This is an excellent example of a script that turns into an independent film that draws an excellent cast and, when it hits the screen, does a good job of telling a good story and telling it well.
It should also be noted that AnnaSophia Robb is growing to be an actress not only of exceptional skill, but of extraordinary beauty.
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