The Science of Sleep

(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry) 

        The Science of Sleep really proves what a great writer Charlie Kaufman is. No, Charlie Kaufman did not write the screenplay for The Science of Sleep. Mores the pity. He wrote the screenplays for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the last film directed by Michael Gondry as well as for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich. I bring this up because the plot of The Science of Sleep is all about a guy who can't tell the difference between his dream world and the real world. In fact, the dream world is his real world. This kind of plot is bread and butter to Charlie Kaufman. In fact, Kaufman makes it look so effortless that you forget that writing a story like this, that works as a film, is almost impossible. I mean, just think about the four screenplays that I mentioned above. These stories are so wacky that if I described them to you, you'd say, "whaaaaa?" But they all work and when you watch these movies, you are willing to accept things like going through a hole in a wall that leads to John Malkovich's brain! Well, I guess you know by now where I am going with this. The Science of Sleep was written by its director Michael Gondry and it doesn't work at all. Its plot is actually less whacked out than any of Kaufman's products. It just tells the story of a strange young man (Gael García Bernal) who is apparently off his meds. Anyway, he is trying to get by in the real world while living in his dream world. Needless to say, everyone around him thinks that he is nuts. Bernal lives next door to a young woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who is just a little bit nuts. At least, she is nuts enough to find Bernal attractive. Eventually, though, his dysfunctional behavior is too much for her and she heads for the hills, or at least back across the hall to her apartment. Their relationship can only work if she is willing to live in Bernal's world.

        I'll say it again. Mores the pity that The Science of Sleep wasn't written by Charlie Kaufman. Because then it would have had an actual plot and not just a series of disjointed dream sequences. About half the scenes in this movie, maybe more, are life as seen through the eyes of Bernal. But these scenes don't work. They reminded me too much of an episode of Pee Wee's Playhouse, except that Pee Wee's Playhouse was much better. It's too bad, because Bernal is a great young actor and has done some nice work in movies like Y Tu Mamá También, and The Motorcycle Diaries. He is totally hyped out in The Science of Sleep and you wish that he would just start taking his meds. But Charlotte Gainsbourg is wonderful as Bernal's dream girl. I haven't really seen her before, although she had a small part in 21 Grams. Her father is French and her mother is English, but she mostly makes films in french. Gainsbourg is very natural and sweet in this movie and you wish that she would find a nice sweet boyfriend who is taking his meds. The Science of Sleep was a big disappointment. I had been looking forward to seeing it since Gondry's last film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, was so good. I just didn't realize what havoc the absence of Charlie Kaufman would wreak.