- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2001

Jack Crawford (Marc Palmieri) is tired. Exhausted by his workaday security-guard gig, bored by his mothers nagging and dying for a few extra hours of shut-eye, the 24-year-old staggers around his sleepy suburban town in a daze.
But when Jacks gun is stolen during a bleary-eyed bus ride from work, he is forced to take stock of his thoroughly unexamined life.
So goes the phlegmatic yet clever "Too Much Sleep," the third entry in this seasons Shooting Gallery Film Series at the Cineplex Odeon Foundry in Georgetown. Its novel dialogue and unpretentious leads, however, cannot redeem its lurching narrative.
First-time screenwriter-director David Maquiling, working with a cast of agreeable unknowns, tacks one curious character study upon another until the films fitful story surfaces.
Just dont expect a by-the-numbers series of revelations. The film surprises on many levels and feels no pressure to succumb to conventional storytelling. At times, Jack seems uninterested in the chase for his gun, and audiences might, too, if they cannot wait for the next crackling conversation to unfold.
Shot in New Jersey and featuring several characters with appropriately local accents, the film often sinks underneath the heft of its own quirkiness. Even its abbreviated running time comes off as a tad bloated.
Jack wakes each morning in the bed he slept in as a boy, with dusty sports trophies aligning its headboard.
The day his gun which belonged to his late father and carries a significant emotional bond for Jack is stolen, his staid life is put on hold.
He quickly turns to his buddys uncle, Eddie, who has the kind of mercurial connections Jack hopes may lead him to his missing gun.
His hopes are more than rewarded. Eddie quickly taps his network of pals to start the chase, and the pair are off in cold pursuit.
The slide show of suburban lost souls that is "Sleep" includes subtle racist threads and enough conflicted personalities to fill a therapists day planner.
Many of its scenes make us feel as if were dropping in on private conversations. The rambling chatter doesnt always further the story, but it consistently paints the sort of full-bodied portraits too rarely seen.
A quick stop-off in a male strip club scores with its humor, and a party populated by creepy revelers makes ones skin itch.
The directors static camera work and reliance on wide shots construct a fitting visual metaphor for Jacks malaise.
Mr. Maquiling possesses a wonderful ear for dialogue, no better served than when Pasquale Gaetas Eddie is spouting it. His Eddie, all attitude and homegrown smarts, provides an unexpected role model for Jack. His self-important monologues prove as genuine as they are endearing.
The young writers script evokes the kind of unexpected laughs not telegraphed 10 beats away. The films more cogent plot is one of self-discovery, and Mr. Palmieri does a credible job as the blank-faced Jack.
As a loopy mystery, however, the film is a misfire. Jack makes progress far too quickly on the crime, and the chase toward the gun thief features a string of coincidences that stink of plot contrivance.
Its denouement is sudden and unsatisfying, though comic.
"Too Much Sleep" can be seen as another swipe at suburbia, but its more telling lesson is the trap a young man can find himself in despite a pleasing mug and wellspring of wisdom.
Other filmmakers might have taken the premise of "Sleep" and concocted a series of farcical, frenetic set pieces leading to the inevitable car chase. Mr. Maquilings take on his material, while imperfect, projects the assured mien of an old hand.
Mainstream audiences likely wont fall under Mr. Maquilings cinematic spell. His dead-on dialogue, though, makes him a talent to monitor.

Two and a half out of four stars
TITLE: "Too Much Sleep"
RATING: NR (Occasional profanity, sexual situations)
CREDITS: Directed by David Maquiling. Screenplay by Mr. Maquiling.
RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes


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