Jake Paltrow's "The Good Night," new to DVD, is a modern day fairytale of sorts primed to resonate with the insomniac in all of us. Paltrow may be principally famous because of his famous parents and superstar sister, whom he casts swimmingly, but he proves with this screenwriting debut that he is the real deal when it comes to writing as well as directing. "The Good Night" is original yet familiar, enigmatic yet straightforward, dark yet comical.
British actor Martin Freeman is Gary Sheller, a disheartened has-been musician writing cheap instrumentals for commercial advertisements in New York City. He lives with his endlessly negative, poisonous girlfriend Dora, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, who only serves to discourage him further. One can sense that both are equally self-loathing, thus resigned to each others' company in lieu of the hardship of single life. Gary stagnates even further while his boss and former bandmate Paul, a sordid, self-absorbed skuzz portrayed by Simon Pegg, seems to get ahead in life with little to no effort.
His anxiety drips into his dreams, and when the gray skies part he's left with Anna, an other-worldly, breathtakingly beautiful woman played by Penelope Cruz. She is lovely, supportive and nurturing - everything that Dora is not. The only problem, however, is that she exists only in Gary's dreams, turning every night into a secret rendezvous. In effort to make sense of it all he turns to Mel, played by the fantastic Danny DeVito. A self-appointed expert on lucid dreaming techniques, he takes Gary on a field trip to a mattress warehouse and warns him to avoid sleeping pills at all costs if he wishes to continue his nightly liaisons.
What makes "The Good Night" particularly endearing is that its new-agey tendencies come across as not only believable but fully relatable. Jake Paltrow transforms New York City into an extension of Gary's dream state, and the results never fail to take unexpected, engaging directions. Freeman makes his protagonist the consummate burned-out everyman seeking a new lease on life, but the script goes much deeper than that. Cruz and Paltrow are outstanding, yet DeVito's presence alone makes the film worth a rental.
Entertaining from the first frame to the last, "The Good Night" is leaps and bounds above standard cookie-cutter fare. With a killer script and a formidable cast that make it all look deceivingly easy, the film charms and amuses in equally generous doses.
It may be a sleeper, but it's no snoozer.