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'Too Much Sleep': A Rousing Debut

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 23, 2001


    'Too Much Sleep' Nicol Zanzarella plays a woman cloaked in mystery in "Too Much Sleep." (Robert Mowen/Shooting Gallery)
IT'S GETTING to the point where suburbia has become a regular, accepted backdrop. In the movies, I mean. Watching "Too Much Sleep" and seeing the opening shot with two guys ambling down suburban street, USA, I simply nodded silently to myself. Yep, that world. Our world.


Suburban familiarity and contempt notwithstanding, the movie's a gas. Very funny, to a rather dark degree. It's about the search for a .38 revolver, by way of Martin Scorsese's "After Hours" and David O. Russell's "Flirting With Disaster."

All of this in good old, all-American suburbia.

The lead character is Jack Crawford (Marc Palmieri), a 24-year-old security guard who seems to be permanently half-asleep. He's taking the bus home from work one morning, when a pretty young woman (Nicol Zanzarella) approaches him. Would he mind moving, so an older woman, who doesn't seem to be very well, can have a seat?

No problem. Jack, zoned out from his night shift, gets up. But Jack later realizes the gun he was carrying in a brown paper bag -- an heirloom of his father's -- is gone.

Could the two women have stolen it? Jack immediately goes to Eddie (Pasquale Gaeta), a fast-talking Joe Pesci type who used to be county clerk of this unnamed New Jersey town and who has connections. Eddie gets some leads from his cop friends, and Jack starts his investigation, a sort of slacker odyssey that takes him from bizarre character to character.

"Too Much Sleep," a debut feature from writer-director David Maquiling, has a seemingly laid-back momentum that gains steadily. It gets funnier and funnier, almost imperceptibly. Jack's immaturity -- he still lives with his mother -- is a running (or walking?) joke unto itself, as he reacts to people in his deadpan way.

At a party (where he has been told he might find information about his gun), Jack finds himself in conversation with a wizened male nurse, who explains how easy it is to kill someone in a hospital and make the death seem like natural causes.

"What hospital did you say you work at?" asks Jack, taking a minute to realize this guy's a menace to society.

And then there's the tough bouncer at the male strip club (another place Jack's been told to visit for information), who claims to be an aspiring songwriter on the side. Suddenly, this tough bruiser is talking about his dreams.

"The journey is its own reward," says Jack, making polite conversation. Of course, the journey can also be painful, Jack discovers. That musically sensitive bouncer is moments away from giving Jack a sound beating.

Jack's rather inefficient search does take him to both women from the bus, but not necessarily with the result he hoped for. But as he encounters a chain of frustration, Jack also rouses himself from a lifelong sleep of dudelike passivity.

Maquiling, a Filipino American who made the shorts "Nine Feet Tall" and "Old English Cal," has said that "Too Much Sleep" is inspired by folk stories from the Philippines. In this case, Asian tradition has been mulched into the manicured turf of American suburban lawns. Whether you find anything exotic in "Too Much Sleep" or not, you'll enjoy this assured beginning. And you're bound to get a kick out of Eddie, a character who never stops talking or being funny.

TOO MUCH SLEEP (Unrated, 86 minutes) -- Contains sexual themes, obscene language and some violence.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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