ead Awake" is one of those movies that has an
intriguing screenplay, is competently put together, but in the final analysis,
you leave with a shrug and a "So what?" Because the movie has nothing
to say, and certainly nothing of any degree of significance or even
insignificance to impart on the audience, I'm unable to sell it as a movie worth
seeking out. So what type of movie is it? It's a David Lynch-inspired film that,
like its leading man, sleepwalks through its production -- but appropriately so.
It's open to interpretation rather the works of the King of
Kook himself, David Lynch ("Mulholland Drive"), has any meaning. But
there's none of that ambiguity with Marc S. Grenier's "Dead Awake",
about a man name Desmond Caine (Stephen Baldwin) who suffers from a sleep
disorder that forces him to wander the seedy landscape of his unnamed city. One
night, Caine stumbles onto a murder, but when he reports it to the police, the
police think he's the culprit. Can Caine, who is a brilliant marketer of junk
product, think his way out of this mess?
There is a lot to like about "Dead Awake." The
film is highly unpredictable, but this may be because the screenplay is so kooky
for the sake of being kooky that no "reasonable" assumption when it
comes to the plot is rewarded. Among the people Caine interacts with on his
daily nightly jaunts is a cross dressing hooker; the dysfunctional patrons at a
late-night diner; a police Detective with a chip on his shoulder; and his
girlfriend, an eco-nut with delusions of saving the planet because "it's
[her] planet, too." The point is, everyone in the movie (and I do mean everyone)
with the exception of Caine is an exaggerated and cartoonish version of
eccentric people you may know in real life.
Stephen Baldwin's Caine character is, despite his odd
sleeping disorder (he can't sleep at night, but can sleep in the day with his
eyes open), the only sane (and the straight man) character in the whole mess.
Obviously writer Terry Abrahamson, with unorthodox camera techniques provided by
director Grenier, is trying to give the impression of Caine's world as more of a
"dream world" than anything approaching reality. At one point, cops at
a police station breaks out into spontaneous partying and drinking because one
of them won the lottery. At another time, Caine meets his eco-nut girlfriend in
a theater full of perverts. Do you "get it" yet?
"Dead Awake" is aesthetically very good, adding
to the notion of the movie's world as one big dream/nightmare that Caine is
having, the product of his inability to sleep at the proper times. Although,
surprisingly, this last point is never capitalized on. There's no big twist at
the end regarding the world -- is it the "real world" or Caine's
make-believe "dream world"? In this day and age of Big Reveals and
Plot Twists, it's a wonder the filmmakers of "Dead Awake" could resist
such an urge at all.
When it comes down to it, there's really not much about
"Dead Awake" to grapple onto. The mystery surrounding the supposed
murder (the cops can't prove it even took place) gets unnecessarily convoluted
after a while, and at some point I stopped caring about who was in on the murder
and who wasn't. Unfortunately this was around the 60-minute mark, and the film
is at least 30 minutes longer.
Stephen Baldwin ("One Tough Cop"), of the Clan
Baldwin, does a good job as the stoic, on-the-verge-of-blacking-out Desmond
Caine. For once, Baldwin's bland expression (or is that expressionless?) suits
his role. Because his character is pretty much sleepwalking through his whole
life, as well as the murder investigation, Baldwin seems right at home.
(Incidentally, he reminds me of the low-key, almost surreal performance of the
usually stoic and bland Val Kilmer in "The
Sometimes filmmakers make the mistake of turning their
films into a Kook Factory without knowing why. Meaning everyone and everything
in the movie is so oddball to the nth degree that you start to get sensory
overload. And while "Dead Awake" does its kook very well, and the
movie is never boring, I really can't say if "Dead Awake" was worth
watching, or if it was just too weird to stop watching.
Note: "Dead Awake" is labeled a
Canadian-produced movie, but since there's nothing very "Canadian"
about it, the label is pointless.