“Hanging out with you is pretty depressing,” says self-proclaimed dream expert Mel (Danny DeVito) to Gary (Martin Freeman). A similar reaction is aroused by The Good Night, Jake Paltrow’s excruciatingly tone-deaf writing-directing debut about the value—and harmful limitations—of dreams. And by dreams, I literally mean slumbering fantasies, as the film concerns Gary’s mounting desire to take refuge in sleep, where his ideal woman Anna (Penélope Cruz), decked out in a white tuxedo and speaking in strange languages (or merely via subtitles), treats him far better than his real-life girlfriend Dora (a dowdy Gwyneth Paltrow). Gary is an ex-pop star who now writes advertising jingles, and like his former bandmate and caddish best friend Paul (Simon Pegg), who happily cheats on his wife, the sad sack seeks escape from his monotonous life. There’s no evading the gracelessness of Good Night, which uses clunky fades to black and color palette shifts to delineate waking and snoozing sequences. Nor is there any avoiding the lethargic obviousness of the scenario itself, in which the unpleasant Gary’s increasingly anxious nocturnal hallucinations, which he attempts to control with techniques learned from Mel, are cast as manifestations of both his desires and his insecurities. A scene in which Gary comes face to face with Melodia (Cruz), the model who clearly inspired Anna, ends with a lengthy shot in which Melodia’s face is spied in a mirror while Gary critiques her appearance, a suitable visualization of the protagonist’s attempt to project fantasies onto reality. Predominantly, though, Paltrow’s direction fails to find any consistent rhythm, a problem that first rears its head the moment an introductory talking-head documentary about Gary segues into the action proper, and no visual distinction between the two storytelling modes is made. More painful still, however, are the film’s stabs at comedy—amounting to randy one-liners from a phoning-it-in Pegg and insecure quips from Freeman—which prove to be the type of DOA humor only a covert studio plant at a press screening would find amusing.
- Yari Film Group
- 93 min
- Jake Paltrow
- Jake Paltrow
- Martin Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Simon Pegg, Penélope Cruz, Danny DeVito
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