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With: Ione Skye, Jennifer Aniston, Mackenzie Astin, Michael Landes, Seymour Cassel, Sean San Jose Blackman, Michael Sterk, Leslie Stevens, Robert Kelker-Kelly
Written by: Tiffanie DeBartolo
Directed by: Tiffanie DeBartolo
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 88
Date: 04/18/1996

Dream for an Insomniac (1998)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Cafe Dreamy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Cafes are cozy places. Especially the mom and pop ones with the second-hand couches and the coffee cups that don't match. The new film Dream for an Insomniac, written and directed by Tiffanie DeBartolo, takes place in such a cafe.

The cafe is owned by Uncle Leo, played by Seymour Cassel (that great veteran of John Cassavettes movies). It's called "Cafe Blue Eyes" after Frank Sinatra. Leo and his son Rob (Michael Landes) and his niece Frankie (Ione Skye, River's Edge) are all Sinatra obsessed. Pictures of Sinatra hang all over, and Sinatra music plays non stop. Frankie is an insomniac with a cynical outlook on life. She wakes up every morning, throws pebbles at Rob's window across the alley and gives him famous pessimistic quotes. She is so miserable that the movie is in black and white, until she meets her blue-eyed angel, David Schrader (Mackenzie Astin, The Last Days of Disco), when the film turns to luminous color. The two seem made for each other.

But David has a girlfriend, an old and comfortable one named Molly Monday. Meanwhile, Rob must work up the courage to tell old unlce Leo that he's gay. In the meantime, he's lied and said that he's dating Frankie's best friend Allison (Jennifer Aniston, TV's "Friends"). This sounds like it could go off into sit-com land, but it remains tolerable. Frankie even says, "Is it me, or is this a Brady Bunch moment?"

It's a first film for Ms. Debartolo, who worked as an assistant to Alexandre Rockwell on the dismal Four Rooms, and it's not a great film. I was turned off at first by its stilted dialogue, and the fact that some of the actors couldn't seem to get a handle on it. Then I was confused by the fact that Jennifer Aniston, as Allison, was talking in a French accent. But I soon found out that she was playing an actress, like Frankie, who practices accents all the time, a different one every day. Aniston is the breeze in this movie. I was amazed that she of all people was the only one who seemed natural. She seemed to be having a good time, and she seemed in the moment (I guess she's used to hanging out in cafes). I began to feel comfortable around this group of misfits, and I realized that I wouldn't mind hanging out with them.

The gorgeous golden look of the film is from Guillermo Navarro who photographed Jackie Brown, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Desperado. It seems like he couldn't wait to do a romance. He's in love with beautiful women, and he makes Ione Skye and Jennifer Aniston radiant, even though they would look good through saran wrap. Even Mackenzie Astin was cute.

Sure, the ending is a foregone conclusion, but at a compact 88 minutes, I never really lost interest in Dream for an Insomniac, and I left the theater feeling good.

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