The Science of Sleep
Director: Michel Gondry. Cast: Gael García Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabot, Aurélia Petit, Serge Bourdo, Pierre Vaneck, Emma de Caunes, Miou-Miou. Screenplay: Michel Gondry.

This antic, inventively disheveled, but egregiously overconceptualized movie wins some points for ultimately defying the goopy winsomeness that keeps threatening to take it over. For a long, long time, the mismatch between the giddy, colorful, through-the-looking-glass romanticism of Gondry's visuals and the flat, ashy mundanity of the central love story feels like a galling error. Ultimately, the film justifies our skepticism in a scene of wormy, exhausted anger that's unlike almost anything else in the movie, but the backloading of the film's intelligence isn't sufficient reward for having made it through 100 minutes of capricious indulgence. Gondry, who also wrote the script, has immersed us too heavily, too often, and with such mismanaged abruptness in the arrested-adolescent projections of his protagonist that I, for one, was too exhausted to make the leap into the film's climactic revelations. Plus, to fill the role of a restive, pouting, sexually repressed manchild, Gondry and Navarro have tapped, of all people, Gael García Bernal, whose handsome charisma, confident comportment, and lithe accessibility to both the audience and his fellow actors all make him woefully wrong for this Pee Wee Herman/Chuck & Buck type. Granted, The Science of Sleep would lack much force of irony or discovery had it typecast the part with more overt maladjustment, but García Bernal looks itchy and effortful throughout. Neither he nor Charlotte Gainsbourg looks remotely at peace inside the clamorous, surrealist set-design. In fact, everyone looks uncertain as to how their writer-director is going to pull all of this chaos and whimsy and distant, thrumming sadness into something architecturally sound and emotionally lucid. Few people could or would make a film like this, but the question remains open whether anyone should—especially with a reigning global sex-symbol toiling so far afield from any of his tonal, psychological, technical, or linguistic comfort zones. C

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