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‘Sleepwalking’ Has Exactly That Potential Effect on Moviegoers

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 0.5/5CHICAGO – When done improperly, there’s nothing more embarrassing than actors playing against their type or social class. There is a subtlety to channeling the lower middle or the working class beyond dressing down or developing a bad hairstyle. “Sleepwalking” is the type of film that gets it wrong and just gets worse as it tries harder.

Charlize Theron in Sleepwalking
Charlize Theron in “Sleepwalking”.
Photo credit: IMDb

Charlize Theron is cast as Oscar bait in her role as Joleen: a down-on-her-luck mother who has just been busted for growing marijuana.

She is also in trouble with social services and then threaten to take away her 11-year-old daughter, Tara, who’s played by the trying-too-hard AnnaSophia Robb. Desperate, she abandons the girl with her brother, James, who’s played by Nick Stahl.

James is another hard-luck case, and because of his suddenly having to care for Tara, he’s forced into unemployment. While social services then takes the girl into foster custody, James in a totally bogus move busts her out.

The rest of the film is a road picture leading into the sad past of James and Joleen as personified by their father: a truly hammy and misused Dennis Hopper.

AnnaSophia Robb in Sleepwalking
AnnaSophia Robb in “Sleepwalking”.
Photo credit: IMDb

The emotions and actions of the characters were wrong, wrong, wrong and in line with the events taking place. The young actress playing Tara was miscast from an impression standpoint.

Even though she looks like Theron’s daughter, she was much too upscale looking for the role.

Unfortunately, too, the script did her no favors as she had to balance anger, petulance, strange “being-on-the-road joy” and a “Lolita”-type pool scene all at the same wretched time.

Stahl felt lost with his character as well and gravitated toward a timid, downward spiral without any apparent foundation (except his choice to underplay the role).

Nick Stahl in Sleepwalking
Nick Stahl in “Sleepwalking”.
Photo credit: IMDb

Even as some family secrets are revealed, it somehow doesn’t fit his established personality. Even his ultimate solution seems shallow and desperate from the filmmakers.

The most extreme wrongness, though, is saved for Hopper’s character. It’s as if director William Maher turned on the camera and simply said “be Dennis Hopper”.

His character is a hopeless caricature and an assimilation of the same old – the same old, in fact, from “Blue Velvet” Hopper. Is this dreck any way to end a career?

The script is full of tired and unrealistic clichés, too. It actually used one adage that did time in a cereal commercial. The direction is also hackneyed with all-ponderous close-ups to guess the character’s “deep,” inner thoughts. It was unquestionably “sleepwalking,” which is a perfect description of any audience member who chooses to walk out on this one.

“Sleepwalking” opened on March 14, 2008.

Click here for our full “Sleepwalking” image gallery!

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Patrick McDonald

Staff Writer

© 2008 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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