Sleepwalking

Few things are as reliably condescending as the histrionics that pass for realism whenever Hollywood gets its mitts on working-class, rural American characters. Well intentioned as it is, this hypersentimental salt-of-the-earth soaper jumps headfirst into that trap.

The tip-off is Charlize Theron’s presence both in front of and behind the camera as coproducer; her attraction to this stuff is officially think-piece- (if not intervention-) worthy. She plays a loudmouth white-trash diva and sister to a self-esteemless minimum-wage mook (Stahl), on whom she dumps her surly teenage daughter (surly Robb) before disappearing. Bro summarily gets fired, moves into the basement of a buddy (Harrelson, providing welcome levity) and loses his niece to foster care. After reuniting, the pair ends up crashing at the Utah farm of his bullying dad (Hopper as a hayseed Frank Booth). Big mistake.

Screenwriter Zac Stanford sidesteps the inherent trickiness of his subject (the adult legacy of child abuse) by rendering stick-figure characters as lifelessly ennobled as director William Maher’s imagery and pacing are flat. The result is TV-style pat tragedy, complete with a daft, patronizingly clichéd message—“Today is the first day of the rest of your life”—that’s repeated three times for our edification.

Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Friday March 14 2008
Duration: 100 mins

Cast and crew

Director: William Maher
Screenwriter: Zac Stanford
Cast: Nick Stahl
AnnaSophia Robb
Charlize Theron
Dennis Hopper
Woody Harrelson