Written and directed by Jake Paltrow, The Good Night is a rare movie that tackles lucid dreaming head-on. It is fairly watchable, if not only for its cast, but also its idiosyncrasy. The characters are likeable and their relationships are real to life. Blurring the line between informative documentary and sadistic comedy; we see the hero learning, but making mistake after mistake in this dreamy movie.
The documentary-style opening features famous talking heads and introduces our main characters. Martin Freeman plays his usual morose yet humorous Brit, named Gary. A former songwriter of a successful indie band, Gary now lives and works in New York as a TV jingle composer, but seeks true artistic recognition. Yet his scenes are frequently stolen by upbeat womanizer, Paul (Simon Pegg), the former lead singer of the band.
Gary's long term girlfriend Dora (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is exactly what she needs to be; irritable and grouchy. She spends most of the film storming out of rooms or looking fed up. I can't fault Paltrow in the The Good Night, even through I usually find her uninspiring.
Memories of Open Your Eyes and Vanilla Sky abound when Penelope Cruz steps onto the scene as Gary's dream woman. I kept reminiscing about those lucid dreaming movies while watching The Good Night. Cruz is on great form as the exotic woman with a multiple personality disorder.
"The guy who discovers that perpetual dream, he's my man."
~Mel, The Good Night
Another surprise was the lucid dreaming guru, Mel (Danny De Vito). Mel is a jack of all trades. We see him teaching various evening classes, working as a waiter, and as a road-repair crew foreman. Although I did balk at the scenes of his lucid dreaming class, which turned followers of this enlightening mind phenomenon into hairy old hippies, holding hands and crying on each other's shoulders for emotional support. Since when did lucid dreaming become an outlet for the depressed or mentally detatched?
Anyway, Mel is a cool customer - not giving much away but just enough to give Gary a path to follow, avoiding 'sell-out' lucid dreaming techniques. This seemed an unnecessary quirk given the progressiveness of the real life lucid dreaming community, but nonetheless it gave Mel an endearing underdog quality.
I have to say I wasn't impressed by the lucid dream sequences. They seemed more like scenes from Bond-flop 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', complete with dinner jackets and cocktail dresses.
In a world where literally anything is possible, Gary conjures up swimming pools, race tracks and a recurring beachside house. He shows very little imagination despite claiming “I'm the best dreamer there is.” Maybe the budget was too small or the writer's own lucid dream experiences too limited, but a little CGI or inspired set dressing would have made all the difference.
However, I was impressed by the film's courage to tackle the theme of lucid dreaming literally and for that it should be commended. Having said that, other lucid dreaming movies which haven't gone head-on to the topic, deal with it in a more subtle, successful and lucid dream-like way. Nevertheless the soundtrack is fit for the purpose and sounds great; light, bouncy and wistful.
The Good Night instantly appealed to me due to its subject matter and keen comedy cast. But after watching it, I was a little frustrated. It presents the art of lucid dreaming as a fruitless activity, ending in sadness. It does not represent lucid dreaming in an accurate light; a way to enjoy and utilize your dream time and gain greater insights. Instead, there was an underlying feeling that lucid dreaming is used solely to generate sexual and lifestyle fantasies. Lucid dreamers will feel misrepresented and the uninitiated will be confused.
My rating is 2.5 out of 5 stars. Fans of UK comedy star Simon Pegg will not want to miss his latest performance, although Martin Freeman leaves something to be desired. In spite of The Good Night's faults, the supporting cast are genial and the concept is enjoyable enough. Worth a watch.