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With: Marc Palmieri, Pasquale Gaeta, Nicol Zanzarella, Philip Galinsky, Judy Sabo Podinker, Mary Ann Riel, John Stonehill, R.G. Rader, Ruth Kaye, Jon Langione, Joan Maquiling, Jack Mertz, Glenn Zarr, Raj Kanithi, Peggy Lord Chilton
Written by: David Maquiling
Directed by: David Maquiling
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 86
Date: 03/07/1997

Too Much Sleep (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

An Industrial Daydream

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Crawford (Marc Palmieri) just can't seem to get out of bed some days. He works as a security guard and lives with his mother, who buys him shirts and leaves them on the kitchen counter with notes pinned to them. Strangely enough, the most exciting week of his whole life comes when someone steals his gun.

Thus begins Too Much Sleep, the feature debut film by David Maquiling and the third of the current Shooting Gallery releases. It has the feel of a story that took off in the direction of a sharp film noir, but spaced out and forgot where it was going. The result is a cleverly deadpan movie about people so lost and dead that they need to be banged over the head to get the slightest reaction.

Jack can't go to the police about his gun because it used to belong to his dad and -- though he always meant to -- he never bothered to get it registered. So he turns to his best friend's uncle Eddie (Pasquale Gaeta) who puts on airs like a gangster, or at least a Vegas hipster, for help. Eddie helps him track down the woman who stole his gun, but doesn't quite know what to do once he gets there. "I thought we'd kinda play it by ear," he says. The woman barks at them to get out of her house.

Poor Jack with his baffled, fishbowl face doesn't seem to know where to go. He waits around until someone gives him a clue. Then he follows that until it goes dead or leads to another clue. He's not a clever detective. He's just shuffling through his days like a shark trying to breathe.

Director Maquiling gives us a working-class town made up of industrial edges, empty spaces, and gray air. No wonder Jack feels sick lying in his bed in the mornings. But the secret of the film is the deadpan humor. When Jack first leaves his house he's joined by a buddy walking down the sidewalk. After a few moments of silence, the buddy leaves, saying, "Gotta go! Talk to you later, bro."

The real coup here is Gaeta as Eddie, the guy who worked for the city for 19 years and knows a few people, and who once spent the weekend in Vegas hanging out with Joey Bishop and Doris Day. Eddie seems to have all the answers as well as the secret to happiness and isn't smart enough to second-guess himself. When the film wraps up, it doesn't matter whether or not Jack gets his gun back. What matters is that Jack learns to snatch at the bits of happiness that flit by every day in New Jersey's metallic air.

(This review originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.)

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