12 March 2008 | LayerCake
Scottsdale, AZ Pre-Screening: 3/11/08
Bill Maher's directorial debut 'Sleepwalking' follows a 12 year old Tara (AnnaSophia Robb) as tries to come to terms with her mother Jolene's (Charlize Theron) recent abandonment. In the process we're introduced to James (Nick Stahl) Tara's uncle and Jolene's brother. In the process Jolene and Tara wind up staying with James (a stunning Nick Stahl), Jolene's brother and Tara's uncle. Jolene one day disappears, she sends a letter saying that she has a plan and she'll be back in a month for Tara's birthday. Tara doesn't take this lightly; James however sees this as an opportunity to do some good, the pair then sets off on a departure from their everyday lives. Events unfold and Tara and James drive to James' father's farm expecting it to be a safe haven for themselves. Mr. Reedy (Dennis Hopper) is James' dad. When they finally arrive to the farm it turns out to be a hellish location set specifically for the all too predictable climax.
Sleepwalking has terrible camera work. It's one of the main problems with it. Its shot like a sappy Lifetime movie, close-up after close-up in the film's most pivotal scenes tires the audience. Another one of the problems is the quantity of unnecessary dialog and scenes that the film subjects the viewers to. Does the viewer really care that much about Jolene's ex boyfriend's nickname? No, they care about the plot and it moving on solidly.
The main highlight is Nick Stahl as James. He makes you feel for his character in ways I've never felt for a character before. He is simple minded and very caring, but those traits make it so that he never comes out on top. He led a very simple life as well before Tara came into his life for such a long period of time. How she transforms his character is interesting and Stahl displays it all. AnnaSophia Robb is also great as the young vixen who we watch. She shows again that she has a great potential for more serious and dramatic work in the years to come. In one of the film's best scenes she glides around skates, smoking cigarette acting reminiscent of Heather Graham's infamous Roller Girl. The boys all gawk as she smoothly moves around the pull, acting out of her age range and becoming more mature with each puff we understand that her character is perhaps doomed to end up like her mother. There is hope that she won't though hidden deep in James, just like her mother she just wants someone to show her that they love and care for her.
The film's two most prolific actors, legendary Dennis Hopper and the incomparable Charlize Theron disappoint a bit in their roles. Hopper's character is dry and bitter, Hopper plays him right but the overall deliver is still short of what it could be. Theron not only acted but also played producer to the film, however I think she should have stayed in the producer's chair for this one. Her character is a supporting one and she plays her right but you feel unsatisfied by her performance because there's not that much there.
Overall, Sleepwalking as a very bland film that could've much more if it had stayed more focused and less cliché at parts. Although, after the sleepwalk you'll remember it as a decent dream.
MY RATING: 6.0/10.0