Posts Tagged ‘Sleepwalking’

Indie festival films almost always fulfill the promise of impeccable acting, so when the performances in Sleepwalking are more than notable it comes as no surprise.

Joleen (Charlize Theron) is a restless single mom worried her unstable lifestyle is damaging her 12-year-old daughter’s (AnnaSophia Robb) outlook on life. When circumstances leave her no choice, Joleen relies on her younger brother James (Nick Stahl) to bail her out and take care of things. When Joleen takes off, James is left to care for Tara. The two embark on an unlawful road trip that quickly grows weary, leading James to take Tara to the only other place he knows – his father’s (Dennis Hopper) farm.

The actors never give the impression of a manufactured moment; each scene appears to capture a moment of genuine emotion, whether it is despair or happiness. Stahl is a talented dramatic actor and this film allows him to demonstrate his ability; at the same time, even at her age, Robb grasps the complex feelings her character is experiencing and conveys them accordingly.

And no matter how nice everyone says he is, onscreen Hopper can scare the bejesus out of anybody.

Unfortunately, director Bill Maher fails to bring anything new to this story type, sticking to the traditionally dreary style – except for a vibrant dreamlike scene of a poolside Tara.

The “making of” documentary draws a little more appreciation for the brilliant performances as viewers watch the cast and crew work in 40-below weather in front of a barren Saskatchewan landscape.

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Nick Stahl and AnnaSophia Robb in a scene from Sleepwalking (Photo courtesy of Alliance Films)Sleepwalking is film fest cinema at its best: it’s indie, star-powered, celebrity-backed and bleak.

The snow-covered landscape of Saskatchewan subs for the oppressing environment of Northern California and, later, Utah. This setting is home to a young man lost in a state of numbness.

Joleen (Charlize Theron) is a restless single mom worried her unstable lifestyle is damaging her 11-year-old daughter’s (AnnaSophia Robb) outlook on life. With no place to live after a drug raid, Joleen calls upon her younger brother for help. James (Nick Stahl) is more than willing to offer his modest apartment, but the living arrangements prove trying on everyone. In lieu of a solution, Joleen takes off with her new beau.

In her absence, James is deemed an unfit guardian and Tara is put into foster care. As their lives spiral out of their control, the pitiful pair joins forces in an attempt to take power back. But as the road grows weary and their money runs out, James takes Tara to the only other place he knows – his father’s (Dennis Hopper) farm. As Tara lives through the horror of her mother’s childhood, James is forced to confront the source of his cowardly existence.

The actors never give the impression of a manufactured moment: everything feels real and as it could be. Joleen and Tara have a strained relationship but each ultimately wants to please the other; meanwhile, Joleen uses James because he allows it, although she feels guilty afterwards. In the end, James tries to be the father Tara never had without angering his own. These are not cookie-cutter characters and their stories are not delivered wrapped in a pretty little bow. Unfortunately, they are not conveyed very strikingly either.

Theron is still recognizable but she once again plays down her beauty to take on the role of a flawed woman. While her screen time is limited, she also contributed behind the camera as a producer. Stahl is a talented dramatic actor and this film allows him to demonstrate his ability; at the same time, even at her age, Robb grasps the complex feelings her character is experiencing and conveys them accordingly.

But no matter how nice everyone says he is, onscreen Hopper can scare the bejesus out of anybody.

Nonetheless, more than competent acting is usually part of the indie package; if only the same were true for directing. Bill Maher (not the politically outspoken one) fails to bring anything new to this story type, sticking to the traditionally dreary style – except for a vibrant dreamlike scene of a poolside Tara.

Ultimately, it is the acting that stands out in this film – but that does not change with screen size.