Sleepy Hollow

'Too Much Sleep' is a deeply boring film.

I once knew a man who was almost ecstatically dull. He was an expert on the philosophical ramifications of deforestation, and I would seek him out in order to enter a trance-like state while listening to him speak. It was an enrapturingly boring experience, not unlike what I imagine the afterlife to be like. Hearing his long disquisitions on "the self's relation to wildness" was, for me, a religious experience during which I was transported to the realm of ultimate being, all unchanging and the eternal.

Of course, rapturous boredom is a rarity. Mostly, we experience boredom as the feeling that we would much prefer to be doing something else. I like to think of this as "hyper-stimulated boredom." Our high-speed modern society (or at least our high-speed, modern soda commercials) demands that we always be doing something "extreme," like rollerblading off a mountain or eating some really crunchy tortilla chips. Thus, whenever we're listening to Mahler or analyzing the defense budget, we have a tendency to feel uncomfortable and anxious until such time as we can return to our normal activity of mountain biking over a vat of TNT.

So it's hard to recommend the film Too Much Sleep, which really lives up to its title. It's incredibly dull. Rapturously, ecstatically dull. Duller than a speech by Al Gore or the brain of George W. Bush.

Which, I think, is kind of the point. It tells the story of Jack Crawford, a boring young man who works in that most boring of jobs, night watchman. One boring morning he is returning home on the bus when a beautiful young woman asks if he'll give his seat up to an elderly lady who is feeling unwell. When Jack gets off the bus he realizes that his gun is missing.

His boring friend Andrew encourages him to go visit his boring uncle Eddie, who sits around a deli telling boring jokes to his uninterested friends. Together, Eddie and Jack canvass their boring suburban town, looking for the two women whom they believe stole Jack's gun.

Looking for a stolen gun is the kind of plot that could get really, well, extreme if it were handled by John Woo or Steven Seagal. However, I imagine that it's the kind of thing that gets really boring when handled by actual people, and that's the sense that Too Much Sleep conveys.

Which isn't to say that this would be a better film in the hands of John Woo (the Hong Kong action director who makes Quentin Tarantino's trousers tighten up). Rather, I've always found high-speed action films to be boring in a most unpleasant way. Usually, in such films, bullets start flying and don't stop for 110 minutes, which, to me, is like listening to a drum solo by a legless, one-armed drummer. After a half hour of that I'm in that state of hyper-stimulated boredom wherein I'm thinking how much more fun it would be to shove red hot needles under my fingernails than to sit through another 80 minutes of killtronic action.

Thus, I'd rather be bored in the slow, coddling way of such films as The Straight Story or Too Much Sleep. In fact, Too Much Sleep is somewhat reminiscent of the engagingly dull films of Jon Jost, the wünderkind filmmaker who wrote, directed, edited, shot and produced such gems of boredom as All The Vermeers in New York and Frame Up. I really cannot recommend Jost's work strongly enough. Frame Up, in particular, is fascinating in that it's the most boring film about a cross-country killing spree ever produced. You know, good boring.

Too Much Sleep never quite rises to the standards of ecstatic dullness that Jost has set, largely because it lacks Jost's incredibly dry wit. There are a lot of jokes in Too Much Sleep, but they're mostly, well, you know, whatever the opposite of "interesting" is. Jost also has much better control over his actors than first-time director David Maquiling. In a Jost film the screen will be an odd assemblage of blank-faced people who speak in monotones and scenery-chewing screamers who express excess emotion with every muscle.

In Too Much Sleep the acting is largely mundane, though I guess for the purposes of boring an audience that's the way to go. Everyone acts like they'd rather be taking a nap, with the exception of Pasquale Gaeta as Uncle Eddie, who acts like he's Lou Costello after a vasectomy. Most especially dull is Marc Palmieri as Jack Crawford. If they gave an Academy Award® for looking sleepy while struggling through a scene, Palmieri would win it. He's a dull guy in a dull job who is only barely interested in his dull life, and he lets us know it. To be so boring is truly a great act of selflessness, and Palmieri should be thanked for it.

In the end, it's hard to say if anyone should go see Too Much Sleep. I'm not sure that seeing it is really like seeing a movie at all. It's more like floating in one of those sensory deprivation tanks, only with more dialogue. Not necessarily better dialogue, mind you, just more.

Too Much Sleep is playing at Catalina (881-0616).

Too Much Sleep is not showing in any theaters in the area.

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