The Good Night

The Good Night

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

When it comes to making your debut as a feature director, few things can be more handy than having a sister in the biz who’s willing to add some star quality. So it is with The Good Night – shot by first-timer Jake Paltrow and starring his sister Gwyneth. In fact, however, the starriness turns don’t end there, with Penelope Cruz also putting in an appearance.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this oh-so-very indie look at relationship difficulties is that Martin Freeman is its leading man. Freeman’s star has been in the ascendancy of late, with his career on the up ever since The Office. This film sees him reprise aspects of his Hitchhiker’s Arthur Dent personality, but imbuing his character with considerably more weight.

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Here he plays Gary a man whose career and relationship have both reached an impasse. Once a pop star, he is now reduced to penning advertising jingles, and trapped in a dysfunctional relationship with Dora (Paltrow, putting in the sort of dowdy performance that Cameron Diaz pulled off so well in Being John Malkovitch, although with slightly less success). The pair bicker constantly, calling truce with a perfunctory “I love you” each night.

Gary’s former bandmate Paul (Pegg, whose comic timing is as snappy as ever) is everything Gary isn’t - thrusting, womanising and now a huge success in advertising. In fact, he’s utterly contemptible, particularly in his treatment of his girlfriend Terry (Amber Sealey), a characterisation presumably intended to help us feel more sympathy for Gary, who for all of Freeman’s talent, still lacks the sort of inner strength that would help the audience root for him.

Gary finds solace in his dreams, which is scarcely any wonder, since they contain his dream girl (Cruz), who knows his inner desires and is sexually voracious. Thus begins a spiral of obsession which sees him consult wacky dream expert Mel (Danny DeVito) and do everything to get the perfect night’s sleep – including soundproofing the bedroom. But when he discovers that his dream woman really exists – she’s a model – things start to get interesting.

There is definite promise in Paltrow’s direction. He certainly isn’t afraid of trying different techniques, with ‘mockumentary’ sections of the film working well – although the gimmicky switching of film stock to emphasise the greyness of his daily life compared to the hyper-real dreams is somewhat unnecessary. And, certainly, the idea of people’s dreams being more interesting than reality is an interesting one – although it doesn’t really break much new ground, and this has a lot less visual flair than the similarly themed Science Of Sleep.

Although the plot is a victim of its own dreamlike qualities – meandering so much that it loses it frequently loses its way – the film certainly has a whimsical appeal, with the scenes between Pegg and Freeman particularly successful. In all, this is flawed, but with enough interest to suggest Jake Paltrow may be one to keep an eye out for in future.

Reviewed on: 10 Jan 2008
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The Good Night packshot
A pop-star turned jingle writer seeks solace from his midlife crisis in his dreams.
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Val Kermode **1/2

Director: Jake Paltrow

Writer: Jake Paltrow

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Martin Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Simon Pegg, Danny DeVito, Keith Allen, Skye Bennett, Steffan Boje, Franco Bulaon, Lucy DeVito, Sonia Doubell

Year: 2007

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, UK, Germany

Festivals:

Sundance 2007

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