The Good Night

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This review was written for the festival screening of "The Good Night." 

PARK CITY -- There is a fine idea for a romantic comedy in Jake Paltrow's "The Good Night" but the writer-director, in his debut feature, never develops it much beyond the idea stage. An odd casting choice and awkward methods of exposition get the film off to a halting start. Then Paltrow compounds the erratic storytelling by making every character thoroughly unlikable. Actually pathetic would be a better adjective since the film is about male-female relationships and everyone seems to have lost the manual.

Burdened with a nothing title and coming off like a third-rate Woody Allen movie, "The Good Night" must pin its boxoffice appeal on the casting of Jake's sister, Gwyneth, and Penelope Cruz. That may not be enough since neither actress has a worthy role.

Gary (Martin Freeman), a British musician of modest talent, is miserable with his life despite having a beautiful live-in girlfriend Dora (Paltrow) and a stable career in New York. He retreats into his dreams where the girl of his dreams is Anna (Cruz), a fantasy figure that demands nothing but non-stop lovemaking.

Despairing over her deteriorating relationship with Gary, Dora flees to a work assignment in Europe. This allows Gary to make elaborate preparations for his dream life, sound proofing the bedroom and cutting off all exterior light. He even consults a dream guru (Danny DeVito in a wasted role).

Paltrow throws in complications in the marital life of Gary's best friend and colleague Paul (Simon Pegg) that add little to the story. Then he hits upon one potentially interesting twist. Gary discovers that Anna actually does exist: She is a supermodel with whom Paul manages to hook Gary up. Predictably, things go badly.

Freeman does not make a very interesting or resourceful leading man. All too often he seems to be channeling the late Dudley Moore doing an imitation of Woody Allen. The women in the film are lovely to behold, but their male writer-director hasn't dug deep enough into their characters to see what makes them tick. Despite the top-billed glamour queens, this is a very male-centric movie.

The screenplay feels like a first draft with ideas and characters still in raw form. The movie begins in the mode Allen's "Husbands and Wives" with interviews establishing several back stories. Then the film virtually abandons this methodology and few of the interviewees play any role in the story.

Characters argue incessantly about very little, as if Paltrow is still trying to figure them out. No one captures your sympathy, certainly not a guy who dreams his life away or his philandering best friend or the lover who denigrates her boyfriend's talents or the fantasy figure who turns out to be a shallow bitch.

The film, shot mostly in London and nearby Ealing Studios but supposedly taking place in Manhattan, has no distinctive visual flair in its depiction of either the real or dream life. The film just makes you sleepy.

THE GOOD NIGHT
An Inferno Distribution and Tempesta Films presentation of an MHF Zweite Academy Film production in association with Grosvenor Park Media
Credits:
Writer/director: Jake Paltrow
Producers: Donna Gigliotti, Bill Johnson
Executive producers: Jim Seibel, Robert Whitehouse, Oliver Hengst, Ernst-August Schneider
Director of photography: Giles Nuttgens
Production designer: Eve Stewart
Music: Alec Puro
Costume designer: Verity Hawkes
Editor: Rick Lawley
Cast:
Gary: Martin Freeman
Dora: Gwyneth Paltrow: Anna: Penelope Cruz
Paul: Simon Pegg
Mel: Danny DeVito
Running time -- 93 minutes
No MPAA rating

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