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Too Much Sleep
David Maquiling's Debut Film Will Put You Down For The Count

by Marcy Dermansky


David Maquiling is not the first indie director to take a camera to the suburbs. I wish he hadn't bothered.
David Maquiling is not the first independent director to take on the suburbs. You could go as far as to say that indie and the suburbs go hand in hand. A young filmmaker grows up in the suburbs, goes to film school, writes a script, gets some investors and a camera, and makes a movie. It's like the advice they give aspiring writers: shoot what you know. A lot of times, that's going to be the suburbs. Compared to a dinosaur movie, it's relatively cheap to film. You can cast unknowns, reveal what goes on behind closed doors, and become an Indie darling. Think Todd Soldonz. Think Hal Hartley.

But not here. The suburbs aren't intrinsically interesting. You need a good story and a compelling main character, both of which David Maquiing is lacking. It took all of my willpower not to walk out of this movie. A couple of times (I am not making this up) I almost did fall asleep.

The story is about 24 year old Jack (Marc Palmieri), an aimless, unambitious narcoleptic security guard whose gun is stolen on his bus trip home from work. The film is about Jack's journey to reclaim this gun. So what is going to happen? He's gonna find his gun. He's going to wander around the suburbs with a sidekick named Uncle Eddie; he's gonna woo the pretty girl who helped steal his gun (but implausibly doesn't recognize him until after they have sex). In the process, he finds himself. Do we care? Does the person Jack at the end of the film seem any more interesting than the tired boy at the beginning who wears the shirt his mother buys for him? No.

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Either it's bad casting or bad direction, but watching the dull Jack move from place to place with zero expression registering on his face was positively painful. It hurt just to look at Jack, who is unenaging and not even cute.

And the script was plain bad. To find his gun, Jack is exposed to and endless series of strange characters. There's a suburban woman he follows to the shopping mall, aerobics class, and the gynecologist. He goes to a party where he meets quirky character after quirky character: first a gay racquetball player, later a female manager of a male strip joint who makes Jack take off his shirt and then has him beat up. I didn't believe any of it -- plus I didn't care. It takes Jack several days, numerous naps, and countless dull interactions with too many freaks to count to get his gun back. You need a fast forward button for the monologues you are forced to endure. Sorry, but throwing dozens of bizarre characters into your screenplay doesn't make for an intriguing plot.

Critics are praising David Maquiling for going back to independent roots: the ennui of the suburbs. I'm all for it. I grew up in New Jersey, after all, and I have my own opinions. I also have enough respect for my middle class background to state that not every one you meet is an unattractive weirdo. There are homes with interiors that are not tacky beyond belief, and you don't need a gun to find yourself.

There are numerous directors whose take of life in the suburbs is worth watching. Rent the little known and wonderful "My New Gun," directed by Stacy Cochran, that features Diane Lane in a white go-go dress who is given a pearl-handled gun by her conservative suburban husband. Watch Todd Solondz's brutal depiction of growing up in the suburbs in "Welcome to the Dollhouse." Indulge in the Long Island Experience with Hal Hartley, whose early films "The Unbelievable Truth" or "Trust " are fine examples of stylized perfection.

But if you have the choice of taking a nap or watching "Too Much Sleep," the choice is clear. Or you might consider bowling or go see a block buster. Brush your hair. Walk the dog. Do the dishes. Go to the mall. Solve a cross word puzzle. Mow the lawn.

'Too Much Sleep'
Marc Palmieri: Jack
Pasqualte Gaeta: Eddie
Nicol Zanzarella: Kate
Philip Galinsky: Andrew

A Shooting Gallery release. Writer-director David Maquiling. Producers Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente. Cinematographer Robert Mowen. Editor Jim Villone. Music Mitchell Toomey. Songs Murray Lightburn. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

 

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