’The Good Night’ bewilders

The ninth annual Williamstown Film Festival (WFF) wrapped up on Sunday with the premiere of former Williamstown resident Jake Paltrow’s writing debut, The Good Night.

An intriguing foray into dreams and their effects on reality, the film reflects upon the life of Gary (Martin Freeman), a mediocre commercial composer, and his dissatisfaction with his sub-par job and dull relationship with girlfriend Dora (Gwyneth Paltrow). His one escape from this life is his dreams, in which he envisions the existence he truly desires.

Gary’s dreams are filled with exotic locations, exquisite clothes and a beautiful woman named Anna who is willing to do anything for him. Anna represents the actual girl of his dreams, as well as his utmost desire – to “suck every drop” out of life and live it to the fullest.

Gary’s reality slowly deteriorates and his dreams intensify as he realizes how far he is from the life he desires. Soon his dreams overtake his waking life, motivating his decisions and landing him at the mercy of Mel (Danny DeVito), an expert on lucid dreaming. Mel says that Gary’s “distractions from unhappiness,” such as his girlfriend and his job, are all that his life is made of and that Gary should strive for a state of perpetual dreaming, where “your favorite song never [ends] and your favorite book never [closes].”

Gary wonders if this is the life he wants – never to live in the present, but to live through his few hours of perfect, uninhibited dreaming. At first, that is exactly what he does: anything and everything in his power to retain those few ideal hours of dreaming. He soundproofs his bedroom, grows even more distant from his girlfriend and generally grows absent from reality. His life fills with images of creamy fabrics, breathtaking beaches and Anna.

After pursuing his perpetual obsession, Gary discovers that his dream girl is in fact real and within reach. Paul (Simon Pegg), Gary’s selfish and sex-obsessed best friend, hires her for a commercial campaign. The line between dreams and reality grows eerily blurred and Gary allows his dream world to leak into reality . . . and vice versa. It left me wondering what in the movie was dream and what was reality.

This film has an interesting perspective and intriguing subject matter. It takes unoriginal ideas (unhappiness with life, general malaise) and applies an original solution (literally living a dream). The outcome, a happy ending, is at once predictable and unexpected. This recipe, combined with later confusion the film caused me, made The Good Night an adequate, if unspectacular, addition to the cinematic interpretation of dreams and their implications.

The film, as I eventually figured out, was actually a two-year flashback intertwined with various interviews that speak of Gary in the past tense. This made the film seem scattered at times and distracted my attention, which may have been the writer’s intent. The characters speaking of Gary in the past tense made me think I knew the path of the film, but I was wrong.

The conclusion encompasses Gary’s realization that reality can be as fulfilling as dreams and that in order to have the life he wants he needs to seek out what he desires. The structure of the ending left me confused as to what was a dream and what wasn’t. The quick changes between the two worlds were too fast for my emotions to follow. In the last two minutes, my reactions jumped from horror to acceptance to happiness to confusion. I was left curious as to what I was supposed to feel and what message I was intended to absorb.

The Good Night explores the space between the sleeping world and the ‘real’ world with a fresh eye and an appealing viewpoint, but ultimately will confuse the rational-minded waking viewer. While it won’t put viewers to sleep, it’s definitely a movie for dreamers.