Too Much Sleep (review)

Way of the Gun

Joisey twentysomething Jack Crawford is in a fix. Riding the bus one morning — on his way home from his job as a nightwatchman — a brown paper bag full of his stuff disappears. Did the pretty, dark-haired young girl who was giving him the eye take it? Or was it stolen by the older woman, dizzy from the summer heat, to whom Jack gave up his seat? He’s got to find out, cuz, see, the thing is, his gun was in that bag. His unlicensed gun.

Though it sounds like a little slice of The Sopranos, Goodfellas-lite, Too Much Sleep is more like early Kevin Smith: Writer/director David Maquiling, in his debut feature, turns a camera on ordinary life, and wrests dark, surprising humor from the sheer mundanity of a young slacker’s existence.
Like Smith, Maquiling uses suburban New Jersey as his canvas, and the behavior of suburbanites as his object of satire… though he needs do little more than straightforwardly show us his unexaggerated characters to send them up. Marc Palmieri is wonderfully deadpan as Jack, who still lives in his childhood bedroom and whose interactions with his mother (whom we never see) consist of shouted conversations through his closed bedroom door and the loving if exasperated notes she leaves for him on the kitchen counter (which basically describes the relationship my brothers had with our mother when they were still living at home).

The show is stolen, though, by Pasquale Gaeta as Eddie DeLuca, the deli-owning uncle of Jack’s friend who agrees to help Jack find his gun. The big joke surrounding Eddie isn’t that this rather charmingly pompous smooth talker thinks that he’s a player because he’s, as he tells anyone who’ll listen, a former county clerk, but that he actually is a local big shot. But under the bluster, Eddie is harmlessness personified — though it’s his connections to the local underworld of petty criminals that will garnered the information they need to find the gun, this is a man whose life is about sitting out on the newly mown lawn in a beach chair or rushing home to cook those sausages before they go bad. Tony Soprano notwithstanding, the likes of Eddie are as dangerous as the burbs get.

As Eddie and Jack drive around, following up on clue after clue as to the gun’s whereabouts, we get the grand tour of white-bread suburbia: the tanning salon, the bowling alley, the Kmart. We meet a mom who still refers to her grown son as the smartest kid in his second-grade class, and visit tract homes decorated in the kind of suburban kitsch that could never spring from the mind of a set decorator but come only from shooting in real people’s houses.

Too Much Sleep is full of perfectly realized touches of reality, ones that provoke both laugh-out-loud guffaws and ironic snickers, particularly if you grew up in American suburbia. Even the unresolved ending is like the endless sprawl that inspired it — you can just imagine that it all goes on forever.

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