The Science of Sleep (finally)
I know, I've been promising this one all week and it's just in time as the movie has now expanded to more theaters. Michel Gondry's follow up to "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is an attempt to outdo himself. "The Science of Sleep" is even more bizarre, but unlike that film, its protagonist is far more optimistic.
Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) is the host of a television show...in his dreams. We see much of the film through Stephane's imagination and the great thing about these sequences is that everything we see looks imagined. He's his own band, running from the piano to the drum set, all in front of a camera made of cardboard. In reality, Stephane has just recently moved in with his mother in Paris. She's gotten him a job at a calendar manufacturer, promising him plenty of opportunities to create his unique brand of art. When he arrives however he quickly discovers that his job is to simply slap the pre-made calendars together. Still he pitches "Disasterology" (a calendar which features a different horrific disater that's happened in every month) to his new boss. It's a very awkward (and therefore very funny) scene that of course ends in rejection. Back in his building he meets Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her friend Zoe (Emma de Caunes). It doesn't take long for Stephane to discover that he and Stephanie have a lot in common when it comes to creativity. The rest of the film involves Stephane's attempts to win Stephanie's heart in the only way he knows how: with his imagination.
Gondry's film, much like Stephane, is full of heart and imagination, and it has some of the most inventive moments I've seen on film in a long while (the One-Second Time Machine and the cardboard car are hilarious standouts). It also features some wonderful animation sequences that recall "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (and there's nothing wrong with that). But as the line between what's real and what's imagined becomes more and more blurred, "Science" becomes maddening. Granted, that's part of the point, but I was left to wonder if Gondry himself even knew where he was. This could be the sort of thing that a second viewing would illuminate, but the first time around I was feeling pretty lost near the end. This is most likely due to Gondry's script. With "Eternal Sunshine" (scripted by Charlie Kaufman) there was a sense that you always knew where you were, no matter how many bizarre places you went at a sometimes rapid speed. "Science" is a much more muddled film and were it not for the incredible performance of Bernal it would likely have come apart at the seams in its final half hour.
"The Science of Sleep" has notable flaws, but it is a very good film. With a script by Kaufman it could have been a great one. 7.5/10