Written & Directed
by Michel Gondry
Running Time: 1:45
for language, some sexual content and nudity.
The Science of Sleep was a trippy comedy that was visually entertaining but had a story that was too confusing to be fun.
Stephane has a strange dream life where things appear to be extremely realistic. There are times when he can't tell the difference between life and dream. In his dreams he hosts a TV show called 'Stephane TV' where he has a cooking show. In the show he combines things like thoughts, love, and friends together to come up with a concoction he finds edible. In his real life, he has just moved back home in Paris and starts work at a calendar publisher. He thinks it's a job where he can use his artistic talent, but it turns out all he really does is glue stuff. He meets his new neighbor Stephanie and her friend Zoe, who mistake him for a piano mover. He doesn't want them to know he's actually the landlady's son, so he pretends to live elsewhere. Soon Stephane and Stephanie become close, but Stephanie doesn't know how to deal with Stephane's strange grip on reality. Stephane must search for the answers to her heart in his dreams, in order to make his reality a happy one.
The writer/director of The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry, also directed and co-wrote the story for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which was another trippy story. But that movie was at least somewhat coherent and the longer it went on, the more into it you got. The only real difference in the creation of the film was that Charlie Kaufman co-wrote the story and wrote the screenplay, which leads me to believe that he's a major reason why Eternal Sunshine was so good and The Science of Sleep not nearly as entertaining. Yes, the cast certainly has something to do with it, but Gael Garcia Bernal is a very likeable guy and a talented actor. I was really rooting for him throughout the film; I just couldn't understand what was happening to him.
There are movies where you can't tell the difference between reality and non-reality. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In this movie, I didn't feel like it worked well because it was too out there. While I felt for Stephane the man, I could never figure out why he had such a vivid dream life. We're just supposed to accept that this is how it is, but we never learn why it is that way. At the same time, even if you forgive that, putting together a more solid story would have helped. He comes up with these crazy contraptions like glasses that make the world 3D, a one-second time traveling clock and a stuffed horse that actually gallops, all in a way to woo her...
You know it's strange. The more I write about the movie the more I think I'm starting to understand it. This really comes down to being a bizarre love story. Stephane loves Stephanie but isn't sure how to explain himself and his strange dream life. Everything he tries seems to backfire, which drives him deeper into his dreams. Hmm... maybe my opinion of this movie has changed somewhat. I'm still not sure I totally liked it because it was a little too out there for my tastes, but at least I can appreciate what Gondry was trying to get across. I do like weird love stories because I always seem to be able to connect with one of the characters. In this case, I feel like I know where Stephane is coming from. But I really wish there hadn't been so much emphasis on the visuals because while they were certainly fun to look at, they also took away from being able to focus on the plot. Instead of helping the story along, they detracted from it making you pay more attention to the special effects. I don't think it was necessary to go that deep to show that Stephane had dual lives going on. I can't honestly say I've ever changed my mind about a movie mid-stream before. I know when I left the screening I was thinking it was too strange for my liking. But now, looking back on it, I realize that what threw me off was the extraneous stuff and the heart of the film was actually pretty nice.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, there are a couple of sides to The Science of Sleep. Visually it is stunning, without questions, but those special effects take away from the heart of the film. The storyline can get confusing, hopping between reality and dreams, but at the center of the film is a love story and if you can concentrate on that, you should like the film. And hey, if you don't get the love story, at least there's a lot of eye candy.
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