The Perfect Sleep: Dutiful Homage and Snarky Send-Up

An ungainly fusion of dutiful homage and snarky send-up, The Perfect Sleep steeps itself in the trappings of film noir while tripping over itself to slather the whole thing in irony. The movie layers its fatalistic drama with absurdist horseplay and a few moments of Lynch-ian mysticism, but it's an awkward mix at best; even when The Perfect Sleep is trying to be funny, it's far too self-conscious to really be much fun. First-time director Jeremy Alter and writer-star Anton Pardoe wear their cineaste credentials on their sleeves in this convoluted tale of a brooding assassin (Pardoe) wreaking vengeance on old enemies while rescuing a childhood sweetheart—before inevitably discovering you can't go home again. The film's visuals are elegantly noir-ish, the plot as bizarrely convoluted as The Maltese Falcon's, but the filmmakers strain at showing us how clever they can be. The Perfect Sleep lurches from reality to meta-reality, as the cartoonish characters wear us down with wide swathes of expository dialogue, and the entire film is layered with a faux-noir voice-over that manages to sound both hardboiled and fey. The nonstop narration has something to say about everything that shows up on the screen, at one point even pausing to admire a shot straight out of a Jean-Pierre Melville crime drama: "Sorry if it seems kinda cliché, but the French dig this kind of visual," the narrator marvels. "And I dig the French."

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