Movie Review: Sleepwalking
By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune Movie Critic
Charlize Theron only gets better as an actress, and she certainly wouldn't sign on to a low-budget indie such as "Sleepwalking" without believing in the material. The material, alas, does Theron no favors. This turgid debut effort from director William Maher provokes little more than memories of other, better Sundance-y festival circuit efforts dealing with broken families and bittersweet road trips and old scores, settled in tidy fashion.
Theron, also a producer on this project, has a supporting role in Zac Stanford's script. She plays a reckless mother who dumps her 11-year-old, Tara (AnnaSophia Robb), into the unsteady but well-meaning care of her younger brother James (James Stahl) and then splits, though with the intention of coming back. Adversities hail down on James' head. He loses his job; the girl gets shoved into foster care; James kidnaps young Tara and the two take off, posing as father and daughter. Eventually they arrive on the unwelcoming doorstep of James' horrendous, violent father, whereupon Theron's character re-enters the picture.
Stanford wrote a different sort of mannered balderdash in the film "Chumscrubber." Here, he's trying to honor the poverty-line straits of people just trying to do their best. He's also trying to pump up the Gothic melodrama. Dennis Hopper plays the mean old father, and while I often enjoy Hopper's work - some of it; the less self-amused turns, anyway - here he acts like an overacting goofball in a role crying out for hard, flinty directness. He doesn't come off like a man of lifelong grudges and bone-deep rage. He comes off like an actor playing around with those characteristics. Despite honorable work from Theron, Robb and Stahl, "Sleepwalking" makes good on its title in a not-so-good way.
MPAA rating: R (for language and a scene of violence).
Running time: 1:41
Starring: Charlize Theron (Joleen); AnnaSophia Robb (Tara); Nick Stahl (James); Dennis Hopper (Mr. Reedy)
Directed by William Maher; written by Zac Stanford; photographed by Juan Ruiz Anchia; edited by Christopher Young; music by Stuart Levy; production design by Paki Smith; produced by Theron, J.J. Harris, Beth Kono, A.J. Dix and Rob Merilees. An Overture Films release.