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Sleeping Dogs Lie (Bob Goldthwait, 2006)


     Bob Goldthwait’s dark comedy of discomfort Sleeping Dogs Lie is willing to plumb some terrible territory, but it ends up vastly overplaying its one-note premise. It centers on a young woman, yearning for total disclosure and openness in her relationship, who reveals a repulsive sexual secret to her fiancé. This revelation, made during a nightmarish trip to her family home, ends up dramatically altering the course of her life, and alienates her from her friends and family. During each step of her long fall from grace, director Goldthwait stresses awkwardness and emotional anguish.


     Sleeping Dogs Lie is so bluntly confessional that it seems to have sprung from some dark, honest place, but there are too many moments scattered throughout that are so contrived that they undercut any impression that anyone truly is bearing their soul. Scenes, such as the one in which Amy’s mother shares a tale of her sordid past, don’t contain the sort of conversations actual human beings are capable of having. Rather, the film settles into a series of pat resolutions and suggestions that we all suffer from the same paralyzing fear of honesty. Independent spirit quickly gives way to sitcom structuring. All who were outraged eventually become assuaged. By the time it concludes, the movie has revealed itself to be rather reactionary, in fact. It winds up reinforcing a mildly conditional form of family values that makes its opening threats to walk on the wild side seem a tad disingenuous.


     Anchored, and essentially redeemed, by a fearless performance from Melinda Page Hamilton, Sleeping Dogs Lie has little else to recommend it from a creative level. The other performances are uneven, at best. The script is provocative, but ultimately offers less than first meets the eye. Goldthwait is an indifferent visual stylist. Ian Takahashi's digital cinematography is unattractive, but that might be attributable to a budgetary concern rather than an aesthetic choice. After all, garnering a great deal of financing for a film with subject matter so taboo couldn’t have been easy.



Jeremy Heilman