A wry, nearly deadpan suburban comedy, David Maquiling’s Too Much Sleep is so good it made me wish I had kept that workhorse phrase “remarkably assured debut feature” just for it. Maquiling comes at his slacker-coming-of-age story from fresh angles in every scene.
At 24, Jack Crawford (Marc Palmieri) still lives at home with his mother in a small working-class town somewhere in New Jersey. On his way to his security guard job, his gun is stolen. Since Jack inherited the gun from his father and never bothered to register it, he can’t go to the police. Instead he enlists Eddie (Pasquale Gaeta), a retired local official who still has connections. Once a minor mobster (maybe only in his imagination), Eddie likes to feel important and has nothing but time on his hands, so he agrees to help Jack. Following a roundabout trail, Jack discovers a curiosity and an initiative he didn’t know he possessed.
If this narrative setup seems familiar, Maquiling’s way of developing it is anything but. Too Much Sleep reaches its ostensible goal (the gun) through a series of digressions. Jack finds himself in unfamiliar living rooms, backyards, restaurants, and parking lots, making small talk with strangers who pour out their stories to him because he seems so interested. What emerges is a cumulative picture of working-class suburbia that recalls what Richard Linklater did with the college town in Slacker. Maquiling has an ear for the language of this milieu, and he almost never goes for a cheap laugh. Raw-boned and apple-cheeked, Palmieri is a near double for Thurston Moore; his diffident delivery is perfectly balanced with Gaeta’s staccato wiseguy patter. Maquiling has a fabulous sense of film rhythm (the way sound, music, dialogue, and actors’ movements play off one another and together determine the length of shot). Too Much Sleep is an understated gem.