Former British pop star Gary Shaller (Martin Freeman) is at a crossroad in his life: his job in New York City is going nowhere, his American wife, Dora (Gwyneth Paltrow), drives him crazy, and he passed his thirtieth birthday four years ago. Add to that his best friend Paul (Simon Pegg) seems to become more successful every time he breathes. Gary is feeling depressed and dejected, until he meets Anna (Penélope Cruz). She's glamorous and smart; she's seductive and witty. Best of all, she's crazy about Gary. Anna is the girl of Gary's dreams, literally. And that's the problem. Gary can only see Anna in his dream life, so he has to find a way to carry on the most satisfying relationship of his life, in his dreams. His quest for lucid dreaming techniques introduces Gary to some crazy characters who ultimately give him a new perspective on life.
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.
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