29 July 2003 | Nick_Dets
A Good Little Indie Film
Writer/director James Savoca's super low-budget first film "Sleepwalk" opens out with an intoxicated man named Ray, lost, but for some reason drifting along an apartment rooftop in New York. Angry at society, he shouts down air vents leading to the apartments below. Soon he gets a threatening response from a strong young woman, but with a likable charm he has, he manages to get invited into her room. Of course they fall in love, and the film progressively follows these two people who come to symbolize the American dream.
The characters are what really shine in "Sleepwalk". Ray is a man filled with mystery. We learn that he is not completely honest, but who is when they fall in love at first. This leads to discovery and character revelation. Savoca isn't so much interested in where the relationship ends up, but more in the complexities of the leads. Good for him. His story has a great setup for a good romance film, but he gracefully keeps it thought-provoking and intelligent enough to prevent it from morphing into a corny chick flick.
The performances compliment the writing well. Ivan Martin plays Ray passionately. His character isn't the most accomplished person on the planet, and in fact lays at the bottom of the barrel socially, but Martin draws in remarkable sympathy and creates a character that becomes absorbing, not annoying. The woman in the apartment (named Henrietta) is played by another underknown, Drea De Matteo. She is beautiful, but also skillful, credibly portraying a woman who is trying to find success, but remain true to herself in the process.
However, a problem with "Sleepwalk", one of those movies that are simple in form but deep in ideas, is that it has some trouble introducing scenes. Movies like these, with tiny casts and little location changes often rely on a lot of dialogue (Richard Linklater's "Tape" or James Toback's "Two Girls and a Guy" for example). This is where Savoca has trouble shifting into his ideas. The meeting is random, but the dialogue comes on too fastly, making the characters unrealistically comfortable with eachother. This is a movie that moves along on a very slow pace, but Savoca needs to ease on into his scenes.
I would recommend "Sleepwalk", because of its good performances and adroit, subtle direction. Not a whole lot happens here, but (wonderfully enough) it lies on an intellectual level most romance films don't. This is a stylish, good debut.