JOE PESCI DOESN'T inspire much nostalgia at this point in his declining career. (Think Raging Bull to Gone Fishin'.) Still, as an excellent recent New York Times article by Molly Haskell reminds us, there was a time when rich character roles—like those filled by Pesci or Thelma Ritter or Dan Hedaya—could define movies as much as their putative stars. So it is with the unsuccessfully offbeat but forgivably mediocre Too Much Sleep, where Pasquale Gaeta capably fills what might be called the Joe Pesci role. He plays Eddie, who brags, "I was deputy county clerk in this town for over 19 years." That the town is a placid New Jersey bedroom suburb and the recipient of his boast is a 24-year-old slacker security guard doesn't diminish Eddie's self-importance one iota.
TOO MUCH SLEEP
written and directed by David Maquiling with Marc Palmieri and Pasquale Gaeta runs March 23-April 5 at Uptown
The kid he's lecturing, Jack (Marc Palmieri), has had his dead father's revolver stolen on a municipal bus and then appeals to paternal Eddie for help. Bad choice. Eddie can hardly drive, much less investigate the crime; together they're like an episode of Starsky and Hutch gone horribly, horribly wrong.
To his credit, however, writer-director David Maquiling isn't aiming for broad yuks or guffaws in this police-procedural ineptitude. Like other titles in the Shooting Gallery Film Series released for two-week runs at the Uptown, Sleep has plenty of promise and no Hollywood pretentiousness. It's a basically likable shaggy-dog story of a Gen-Y protagonist's fitful reawakening to reality, not unlike Jonathan Demme's Something Wild (albeit without the great soundtrack, acting, and writing).
If Sleep's quirkiness doesn't take hold, so what? At least you haven't been cheated by a massive, misleading advertising campaign. Modesty of execution occasionally befits modesty of expectation. As Eddie lectures thickheaded Jack, "You gotta learn to live your life, ya follow me?" No, but sometimes being confused and engaged is consolation enough.