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'Too Much Sleep': A Joisey Rest Stop

By Stephen Hunter
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)
Here's the most annoying thing about those cute little proverbs -- you know, those nuggets of wisdom older people are always laying on you.

They are almost always true.

Take the following cheesy classic: "It's the journey, not the destination." What hokum! What garbage! What triteness! Alas, it's 100 percent accurate, as all grown-ups know either from triumph or bitterness, depending on whether they've learned it early enough to help.

And that, as it works out, is exactly the treacly little theme that underlies "Too Much Sleep," by the young filmmaker David Maquiling -- the latest in the amusing series of independent films released under the title Shooting Gallery and featuring, most notably, "Croupier" and, most recently, "When Brendan Met Trudy."

It's nothing less than a spiritual journey set in New Jersey. And you didn't even know there could be a spiritual dimension to New Jersey? Hmmm, the spiritual dimension of the Garden State certainly eluded me in the six cold, wet months I spent at Fort Dix.

Our hero is an enchanted prince as the movie opens. He is a big lug of 24, living at home with Mom, agreeable, decent and very, very sleepy. Give him a second and he'll nod off. That's because he's nowhere, no place, with nothing going on.

His name is Jack Crawford, which also happens to be the name of the character Scott Glenn played in "The Silence of the Lambs." Meaningless coincidence or a part of the symbolic matrix? I vote for meaningless coincidence.

Jack, played by an amusing guy named Marc Palmieri, is coming home one sleepy morning from his dead-end job as a night watchman. On the bus, he is distracted by an attractive girl, and, when she asks him to, moves aside to let an older woman have his seat. Both get off the bus; when he snaps back to reality from a dreamland tryst with the young woman, he realizes that the paper bag he'd set on the floor is missing. Since that's where he carried his gun to and from work, he's in big trouble.

Thus, fighting yawns and suburban ennui and the solicitude of an unseen mom, he embarks on a journey to recover the weapon. This takes him into worlds all the stranger for existing behind little houses and well-tended lawns. In one such mundane place -- a diner, actually -- he meets Eddie, who claims to be the Fixer of the Garden State. Actually, what Eddie (Pasquale Gaeta) needs to fix is his mouth, which is running all the time, usually with stories of self-aggrandizement and braggadocio. But it's his pleasure to show the somewhat sheltered, baffled Jack how life really works.

With Eddie as his guide, Jack descends into the maelstrom of crime that is suburban New Jersey. Oh, wait, wrong word. Correction coming: Make that into the mildstrom that is suburban New Jersey crime. This involves some other completely harmless people, all of whom are overacting so broadly you'd think they're still auditioning to get into the movie, as opposed to actually being in the movie.

By the time he tracks down the young woman, Kate (Nicol Zanzarella), Jack has pretty much reinvented himself as a man, and become fully awake. He's been improved by the journey, even if the destination no longer matters. In fact, in the end, whether he gets the gun back isn't really important, and Maquiling is so sure of this, he neglects to make it clear. He's had a good time getting there, and most viewers who like vivid characters taking precedence over a not-so-vivid narrative will, too.

Too Much Sleep (88 minutes, at Cineplex Odeon Foundry) is not rated but contains sexual material.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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