First of all, I am not much of a movie critic. All the movies I've watched fall into either of two categories: Good/Not Bad/Ok or Lousy.
The Sleeping Dictionary falls into the Good/Not Bad/Ok category. I am quite the sucker for love stories and the movie does fall into the romantic drama category. I was afraid that the the main characters of the movie were going to end up as star-crossed lovers and not have a happy ending! I am glad that they did end up together.
This is the gist of the story:
In 1936, the expatriate, young and naive just-graduated British John Truscott (Hugh Dancy) arrives in the jungles of Sarawak, a British colony, to work among the Iban. The beautiful Selima (Jessica Alba) is assigned to be his "sleeping dictionary", to live and sleep with him and teach him the language and habits of the locals. The reluctant John and Selima fall in love for each other in a forbidden romance.I am not sure if sleeping dictionaries actually existed during the colonial time in Sarawak but it would not have been an impossibility. I don't doubt that the Englishmen working for the colonial governenment had local women as their mistresses! Heheh.
I wished the lead characters had done a better job with the Iban language. There were times that I didn't understand what was supposedly spoken in Iban! Makes you wonder why an Iban actress could not have done the role of Selima. But then again there are steamy scenes in the movie and I am not sure if a local actress could do any of those scenes! The movie is R rated, meaning it contained some sexuality.
The movie was filmed in Malaysia, I don't know exactly where, and the jungle scenes are simply breath-taking. But why do they have to add some birds flying in the jungle that don't belong in the jungles of Borneo?! I saw macaws, Amazon jungle birds, flying in the Borneo jungle! Why not the hornbill?
And the music! Just because most of the scenes take place in the jungle, does not mean the movie score has to sound like it fit better in a movie set in the Amazon. All that wind instruments! What happened to stringed instruments, like the sape, and the gong?
I can't complain much about the costume. Back in 1936, Iban women deep in the jungle would probably have been bare-breasted. At least the women wore sarongs wrapped around their chests, and Selima wore sexy outfits throughout the movie. Another thing, just because she has been around as the sleeping dictionary, does not mean she has to behave quite immodestly - little things like her posture, the way she sits.
There was a scene in the movie where Selima stayed under John Truscott's bungalow after he dismissed her from being his Sleeping Dictionary. Cuthess thinks that implied the Iban are barbarians living under the house with pigs! Heheh. I didn't see any pigs under the house; they were all in a pen.
Anyway, all in all, I think it was a pretty good movie. It had all the elements of a good love story and enough sentimentality to cause a few tears! Heheh.