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The Independent Critic

Jessica Alba, Hayden Christensen, Lena Olin, Terrence Howard
Joby Harold
Rated R
78 Mins.
 "Awake" Review 
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Doesn't Jessica Alba seem like a wonderfully sweet human being?

I've always thought so.

So, when I read that Alba and "Awake" co-star Hayden Christensen visited local children's medical units while filming this suspense thriller my heart went all warm and fuzzy.

That warm, fuzzy feeling ended rather rapidly once the lights went down and, dare I say it, "Awake" practically put me to sleep.

Filmed two years ago, "Awake" is a red light film.

Think about it. The film wasn't screened for critics (never a good sign), and it's being released on the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving.

Despite having a cinematic ballpark all to itself, the box-office prospects for this ho-hum suspense thriller are modest at best.

So far, "Awake" has garnered a single positive review on Of course, that ONE review happens to be a very important one...Roger Ebert, who gives the film a 3-star rating and declares it a suspenseful film that, he declares, "had me."

Now then, I love Ebert. He's absolutely one of my favorite critics and a delightful writer. Yet, I can't help but wonder if all that time in the hospital somehow has made him infinitely more sympathetic to almost laughably bad medical films.

"Awake," which will undoubtedly garner a Razzie nomination or two, most notably for Christensen's "How can I manage to screw up playing an unconscious surgery patient?" portrayal of Clay Beresford, the billionaire heir of a real estate fortune whose weak heart leads him into this rather unfortunate predicament.

Jessica Alba, whose at least likable if not exactly dramatically resonant, portrays his secret fiancee, Sam, while Lena Olin adds a touch of depth as his mother, the family matriarch (of course!).

To describe the plot, especially of a film that only runs a mere 78 minutes, would give far too much of the story away, but rest assured that writer/director Joby Harold's first feature film is such a convoluted, contrived mess that not even the presence of the dependable Terrence Howard, as Clay's trusted physician, can save the day.

The greatest problem with "Awake," beyond the sub-par performances, inconsistent script and unintentional humor, is that Harold doesn't seem to have a grasp of what he wants the film to be.

Is it a suspense thriller? It gets far too sentimental and, even more sadly, Harold moves the action around far too much for it to truly build suspense.

Is it a romantic drama? Nah, even if that was the desired result, neither Alba nor Christensen achieve the desired result.

Is it a medical flick? Well, the film does get rather graphic at times with the medical scenes. It has potential, but then again, so many of the scenes are so completely unrealistic that even this angle fails.

In short, "Awake" flirts with a variety of sub-genres and becomes convincing at none of them.

Christensen, who as of late had shown modest signs he might actually be an improving actor, returns to his "Star Wars" form here. Alba, who's really not called upon to do much, manages to project her usual laid back persona. I'm just not convinced we should be calling it acting.

Olin and Howard, in their supporting roles, do the best they can with limited material, though Howard's performance seems a touch inconsistent given the more weathered description we receive of his Dr. Jack.

After its inevitably quick run through the box-office, "Awake" may actually be the perfect video rental for even the most hardcore insomniac.
Copyright 2007, The Independent Critic