SLEEPWALK WITH ME and ARBITRAGE

Hard to image two more stylistically different yet pleasantly entertaining films than these new to the Triad this weekend.

Sleepwalk With Me is authentic – not surprising since it’s based on Mike Birbiglia’s comedy and other autobiographical narrative forms – and multi-layered as it unfolds to reveal a man much more complicated than he seems at first.

The logline conveys the plot well enough: A burgeoning stand-up comedian struggles with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship, and the wild spurts of severe sleepwalking he is desperate to ignore.

I love small films like this one that unfold and reveal, unfold and reveal, unfold and reveal until we know all that we need to know and are satisfied.

As spare and deeply knowing as Sleepwalk With Me is, Arbitrage is lavish and superficial.

This it not a criticism exactly.

Written and directed by newcomer Nicholas Jarecki, the film centers on a hedge fund manager eager to sell his business and cover up a slew of personal and professional failings.

Richard Gere is perfectly polished, but underneath his expensive haircut and suits and the other trappings of his wealth is…not much. (The veneer is everything, which is why a glittering surface over an empty core suits the film as well as the character.)

I find the juxtaposition of glittering on the outside and hollow within preferable to an implausible character arc that turns the man he is, a man driven by his desire to win at everything no matter the cost, into the man he could be, a man driven by something more or something better or a maybe not so driven a man after all.  I find that easier to buy, somehow, than redemption for hedge fund managers.

Susan Sarandon has some good scenes as Gere’s wife worth noting – best never to underestimate her.

Arbitrage is fun to watch but not notably memorable.

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