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The Perfect Sleep (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 4, 2023


Starring Anton Pardoe, Roselyn Sanchez, Patrick Bachau, Peter J. Lucas, Tony Amendola, Pavel Lychnikoff, Sam Thakur, Dominiquie Vandenberg, Cameron Daddo, Isaac C. Singleton Jr., Michael Paré, John Fleck and Dmitri S. Boudrine.

Screenplay by Anton Pardoe.

Directed by Jeremy Alter.

Distributed by Unified Pictures. 103 minutes. Rated R.

The poster from The Perfect Sleep has a quote from actor Gary Oldman – who is apparently not involved with the movie but is kind of known for his own oddball films. In his testimonial Oldman says enthusiastically, "It's film noir on crack."

It's rather odd to see a movie poster with a testimonial from an actor or someone who works in the biz rather than a critic – that kind of cross-promotion often happens in publishing but is rare in film. This may at least partially be because we have no way of knowing what kind of taste in movies Gary Oldman has, except for his own body of work, which does not necessarily bode all that well for The Perfect Sleep.

However, credit where credit is due, Oldman's statement pretty much does sum up The Perfect Sleep – both its good qualities and its bad.

The Perfect Sleep feels like what would happen if someone threw The Maltese Falcon, Sin City, The Godfather, Crime and Punishment, Hannibal, Vertigo, Dallas and King Lear into a blender, hit puree, and then poured the whole concoction in a post-modern carnival glass.

It takes place in this weird otherworldly area which may be modern San Francisco or may be 1930s New York or might even be an alternative universe.

It is dark, moody, depressing and more than occasionally way too complicated and/or convoluted. It is stylish, violent, operatic, tragic, completely humorless and kind of a mess. It is working so feverishly to be hard-boiled that it often becomes overwrought. Yet at the same time it is often willfully post-modern. The main character several times interrupts his tough guy narration to comment on different camera shots and angles, winking at the audience: This is only a movie, after all.

That narration is a good example of the highs and lows of The Perfect Sleep. It starts out rather intriguing but eventually goes on so ubiquitously that it wears out its welcome. Entire swatches of the film have little dialogue, just the main character droning on and on about the action we are seeing on the screen. It is tough, it is street smart and it is all too much. Star Anton Pardoe, who wrote the screenplay, obviously missed the "show, don't tell" class at screenwriting school.

Yet, for all its imperfections, The Perfect Sleep does have a seductive amphetamine vibe which makes it unique and thus fascinating. It is all too rare to find filmmakers who take real risks, so when you do find something new you want to like it even with its provisos.

First-time director Jeremy Alter has worked behind the scenes with David Lynch and the surreal visual and storytelling style here are reminiscent of his mentor's more mind-bending moments. Pardoe's screenplay has the somewhat formal and stilted meter of Shakespeare, opera or epic poetry which gives the sudden shocking violence more power – it's almost a narcotic effect, the filmmakers are numbing us before striking.

The Perfect Sleep is well acted by a mostly pretty unknown cast. Actress Roselyn Sanchez of Without a Trace who plays the woman that the hero has loved from afar his whole life is one of the few recognizable faces in the film. Short-lived 80s film star Michael Paré (Eddie and the Cruisers) also pops up briefly to save the hero's life.

In the end, I doubt I will ever feel the need to see The Perfect Sleep again, but I can see how with a little TLC and word of mouth it could become a cult favorite.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: March 6, 2009.


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