Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking
Starring:
Charlize Theron, AnnaSophia Robb, Nick Stahl, Woody Harrelson and Dennis Hopper


Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 14, 2008 Released by: Overture Films

Another dysfunctional family drama produced by Charlize Theron is somewhat thematically akin to Grace Is Gone. One that was shot in western Canada, but takes place in western U.S. locales like northern California and Utah.

In Sleepwalking, Theron is given lead billing as irresponsible mother Joleen Reedy, but that is misleading since Joleen is absent for much of the proceedings, which may trouble some viewers.

Joleen is in a predicament in the early section of William Maher's feature film debut. When her boyfriend is arrested for growing and dealing drugs, her and her 11-year-old daughter, Tara (AnnaSophia Robb of Jumper and The Reaping) become desperate for new digs.

The central, modestly involving relationship in the screenplay is between Tara and her uncle James (Nick Stahl of Sin City and Bully) as the sexually loose Joleen does something similar to a maternal figure in The Shipping News.

Joleen's brother will gradually find some purpose in his life through Tara, a disappointed and impressionable daughter longing for her mother. Woody Harrelson (Semi-Pro) plays a drinking pal of James, a colleague on his construction/road crew who offers some help and advice.

Later on, Dennis Hopper figures prominently as the Reedy patriarch who welcomes James and Tara on the ranch before their situation gets more unsettling.

The characterizations, and the film as a whole, are negatively affected by the pedestrian plotting. It won't take a discerning onlooker to notice that motivations and choices aren't easily understood before the conclusion which might remind one of a typical melodrama from at least a half-century ago.

The less glamorous, darkly-coiffed Theron provides gusts of bravado, but much less than one hoped given how attached she was to this project. Stahl and Robb have their moments, but are primarily mired in familiarity, as a surrogate begins to realize the nature of his existence. And, Hopper's presence comes on awfully strong, to make the effect rather overwrought than poignant.

If the overly measured Sleepwalking ambles well, it is in moments in a solarium or staring down large trucks as the detailed lensing of some lost souls has a surreal swirl of its own.

  Frank Chris Jim Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Sleepwalking        C               C 

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