Michel Gondry is the Willy Wonka of cinema. He loves bright colors, punchdrunk whimsy, and, to cop a phrase, pure imagination. He's probably a madman, and that's what makes him so charming. You can't help but laugh at the sheer, giddy joy of his storytelling, even if the laughter is, occasionally, of the nervous variety. But make no mistake—Gondry isn't a candyman. His movies are delicious and delightful, and they'll leave you with a heck of a sugar rush, but their nutritional value is much higher than that of an Everlasting Gobstopper. Gondry's films can pack a surprising emotional wallop, even when they don't necessarily make logical sense.
And, as with Wonka, Gondry has an imagination so infectiously childlike and enthusiastic that his art is great in spite of its imperfections—in fact, one is inclined to say that the blemishes just make his movies all the more charming. That's certainly the case with The Science of Sleep, a movie that flaunts Gondry's greatest weakness and dazzles in spite or because of it. Simply put, the man isn't a great screenwriter; he's got too many big ideas and not enough focus or sense of purpose. In the past he's brought in hired pens like Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature) to give his flights of fantasy some basic structure, but in Sleep he goes it alone. Thus, any sense of narrative focus is derailed after half an hour, but don't let that bother you—the fun just keeps flying by, deliriously inventive, full of exuberant whimsy and ramshackle energy.
One almost wonders if the film is some kind of abstract autobiography. Gael Garcia Bernal plays a guy named Stephane, but he really seems to be playing Gondry himself—a man immersed in a ...1