Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Science of Sleep (2006, Michel Gondry)

As I suspected, Michel Gondry has a fascinating eye, but without a strong second presence keeping him on the straight and narrow, his work is little more than eye candy. Whereas ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND had a visionary Charlie Kaufman screenplay, SCIENCE is Gondry through and through. In some respects the films are quite similar- both stories focus on introverted guys and their lurchingly awkward relationships, and Gael Garcia Bernal's Stephane even sports a similar wool cap to Jim Carrey's Joel. But whereas Joel was complicated- he's judgmental, for one, and also sort of constipated emotionally- Stephane is pretty two-dimensional, a creative guy who has trouble distinguishing dreams and reality. On top of that, Charlotte Gainsbourg barely registers as Stephanie, failing to distinguish a role that is little more than that indie staple, the quirky best-pal/girlfriend. As a result, their relationship loses a lot of its inherent interest- there's no moment between the two that rings as true as, say, the scene in ETERNAL SUNSHINE where Clementine busts Joel's chops for referring to her as a "wino." Surprisingly, though Gondry's visual whimsy dominates the proceedings, it actually doesn't get old- he keeps the images fairly fresh, and the fact that many of the effects are practical rather than digital helps them go down easier. I also dug the bitchin' Nehru jacket that Garcia Bernal sports throughout almost the entire film, although what that has to do with anything is anyone's guess. Maybe one day Gondry will create something on his own that's as good as his work with others (not just ETERNAL SUNSHINE but also his videos and DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY), although for this to happen he'll have to try harder to give us a reason to care about what happens. Rating: **.

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