The Good Night


Director Jake Paltrow’s feature debut has all the hallmarks of an earnest young man’s feature debut, and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, I can only imagine that it fit Sundance like a fingerless glove when it had its premiere there earlier this year. Paltrow, a veteran TV and film scriptwriter, has chosen the quirky relationship drama as his milieu, and cast older sister Gwyneth as deathly drab Dora, the female half of the film’s rapidly staling couple. Martin Freeman, working the last five minutes out of that butter-knife pixie cut and its attendant charms, plays Gary, a failed musician and emotionally absent boyfriend slumming in the jingle racket to make ends meet. When a kohl-eyed, white-tuxedoed beauty played by Penélope Cruz begins visiting Gary in his dreams, bearing soothing tidings of well-being and the occasional morning hard-on, Gary retreats from the truly awful Dora into his good night. It’s unclear why either half of this interminable couple ever liked the other, and though Paltrow works up a vivid, sensual zetz for the dream sequences, the murky palette of Gary’s waking life gets oppressive in its intentional contrast. Simon Pegg is abidingly repellent as the best friend and ugly face of male narcissism, playing fast and loose with his own life while Gary tiptoes through dreams, but even the nice twist of a fantasy made unexpectedly, then expectation-crushingly real can’t uncork the hermetically sealed—if largely inoffensive—fate of this boy-meets-compromise tale.