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The Sleeping Dictionary
The Sleeping Dictionary
Actors: Jessica Alba, Brenda Blethyn, Hugh Dancy, Bob Hoskins, Christopher Ling Lee Ian
Director: Guy Jenkin
Genres: Drama
R     2003     1hr 49min

A sexy and comic love story, set in the 1920s, about an idealistic young British colonial officer who arrives in a remote jungle outpost to find himself assigned a local beauty to sleep with him and teach him the language.


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Movie Details

Actors: Jessica Alba, Brenda Blethyn, Hugh Dancy, Bob Hoskins, Christopher Ling Lee Ian
Director: Guy Jenkin
Creators: Guy Jenkin, Chandran Rutnam, Charles Wang, Denise O'Donoghue, Frank Hildebrand, Jimmy Mulville, Mark Ordesky
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance
Studio: New Line Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 02/18/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2001
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2001
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 49min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 13
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
See Also:

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Movie Reviews

Lush scenery and story make up for acting performances
Sean Pasek | Albuquerque, NM | 03/11/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Despite a sub-par performance by Jessica Alba, I still enjoyed this movie. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The scenery was beautiful, and the story was intriguing to me of an English colonial attempting to learn the language and culture of a people. Through his education, he finds himself more comfortable with the natives than with his fellow Englishmen.Hugh Dancy and Bob Hoskins turn in good performances. In many ways, they keep the movie afloat. Jessica just seemed a bit out of place. I've seen her act. I know she can do a good job. She simply didn't seem to have a solid handle on her character. Her accent was about as credible as Kevin Costner's in Robin Hood. But, I was able to look past this and enjoy this film.Also, anyone who rents this film with the hopes of "seeing" Jessica topless is in for a disappointment. It is a body-double, confirmed by Jessica Alba herself. Any time you don't see the actor/actress's face, 9 times out of 10, it is a body double. And anyone who knows anything about making movies aside from watching them knows that just because the cut to the face of the actor/actress, is not an indicator that it is the actor/actress doing the nude scene. Anytime the movie "cuts" is an indication of a new shot, therefore, not filmed in a single, unending sequence.So, if you are interested in a good story and some great scenery, than this film should work for you. If you're hoping to catch a glimpse of Jessica, then you best move on."
A beautiful direct to DVD period movie with Jessica Alba
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

""The Sleeping Dictionary" was a direct to video film, which is rather surprisingly given both its cast and its look, as borne out by the film winning four DVD Exclusive Awards in 2003 for Best Actress Jessica Alba, Best Cinematography by Martin Fuhrer, Best Supporting Actor Bob Hoskins, and Best Supporting Actress Brenda Blethyn. This really is too good of a film to be a DVD Premier Movie, but hopefully word will get around, even if it is to check out Jessica Alba wearing colorful tribal outfits.The setting is Sarawak, Malaysia in 1937, when young John Truscott (Hugh Dancy), fresh out of university (where he tended to read books), has come to serve his Majesty's government as an official of the Empire. The regional governor is Henry Bullard (Hoskins), who oversees the Iban, a tribe of friendly headhunters. John, like his father, has a dream of educating the Iban children, but that requires him to learn the local language and customs. The governor arranges for John to have a "sleeping dictionary," a local girl who will both teach the young Englishmen to speak the language and tutor him in the ways of love. The girl selected for John is Selima (Alba), who is half Iban and have British. John initially resists the second part of his education, but in the end falls in love with this beautiful and sensual woman, which violates the taboos of both cultures. Meanwhile, the governor wants his daughter, Cecil (Emily Mortimer) to marry John, and the situation conspires to give our young hero no choice but to stick to the elitist traditions of his own people. Cecil and her mother (Blethyn) know about the sleeping dictionaries, but it turns out that neither they nor John know everything about Selima and the solution to John's problems that is arranged at the end of the film's first act becomes unraveled in the second. This is a beautiful film from writer-director Guy Jenkin, full of stunning visuals of the lush jungle of Sarawak and the native peoples. Simon Boswell's musical score perfectly compliments the visual splendor. The only real weakness on that side of the camera is the editing, where key moments are shoved aside to move on to the next scene too quickly a couple of times. But the strength of "The Sleeping Dictionary" is in front of the camera, not only in terms of the gorgeous images but the solid performances from the entire cast. Even those who are disappointed that there is a body double for Alba in the nude scenes or that her accent is problematic at times are not going to be disappointed they checked out this 2002 film. Unfortunately New Line Cinema skimped on the extras for this DVD. All we get is are trailers, mostly for other films, and no insights into whether the sleeping dictionary is a real tradition or part of Jenkins' imagination. One of the joys of a well made period piece is a look at the fun the cast and crew had with getting it right on screen."
A must have for Hugh Dancy fans!
Marcy Gomez | Kansas City, USA | 02/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Jessica Alba is not the only reason to buy this DVD. Anyone who has seen Hugh Dancy in films/series like TNT's "David Copperfield" (which, sadly, is not yet on video/DVD), "Black Hawk Down", BBC's "Daniel Deronda" and the upcoming "Ella Enchanted" will no doubt want to get their hands on this DVD.Hugh plays John Truscott, an idealistic and naive British diplomatic assigned to learn about the culture and peoples of Sarawak. There he meets and is "given" Selima (Jessica Alba) as a "guide" (his "sleeping dictionary" who teaches him a thing or two about her peoples' ways). The two fall in love and come in conflict with his responsibilities as a diplomat, the rules and mores of British society and her ethnic/tribal customs. Will love triumph over adversity and social constraints?The cast is strong (with supporting roles by Brenda Blethyn and Bob Hoskins) and Dancy is charismatic and believable as our hero.
Jessica Alba is perhaps a weaker link but the story itself is compelling and you find yourself rooting for our hero and heroine. It is a sweet love story and Hugh Dancy is so wonderful to look at, that I find it well worth the price of the DVD just to stare at him for 2 hours (superficial, I know, but the women readers will understand).If you enjoy this film, may I also recommend Hugh in "Daniel Deronda" (an excellent BBC period piece based on George Eliot's novel) as well as "The Bounty" starring a young Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins (which follows a similar story thread to this film). All in all, I highly recommend "Sleeping Dictionary" and I dare any female viewers out there not to fall in love with Hugh once they've seen him in this one."
Visually entertaining
K. M. Talha | Malaysia | 01/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"In the not-so-distant past, young British men, fresh out of university, were sent to outposts of the Empire to practice their administrative skills on one of the many races subjugated by the British at the time. This film follows young John Truscott (Hugh Dancy) as he arrives in Sarawak (now part of Malaysia) in 1936 for his stint - he is idealistic, and full of ideas for educating and civilising the primitives. He is startled to be met by a tattooed native who speaks perfect English, and who introduces himself as Belansei (Eugene Salleh). Belansei takes him upriver, where he meets Henry Bullard (Bob Hoskins), who is governor of the district. Truscott is assigned a hut, a cook (who cooks well, but drinks heavily), and, to his surprise, a "sleeping dictionary". A sleeping dictionary, he is informed, is a young woman who will sleep with him and teach him the local language. Truscott is shocked, and upset, although he feels very attracted to Selima (Jessica Alba). He refuses to sleep with her, but offers to learn the language from her. Bullard is angry, because he is rocking the boat and refusing to follow tradition, even though this is the way things have been done for centuries.

Truscott yields to propinquity, however, and falls in love with Selima, and she with him. This love is deepened when they experience danger together. He wants to marry her, but this is forbidden by British traditions, and all manner of retribution will fall upon them should they persist. Instead, Bullard's wife, the manipulative Aggie (Brenda Blethyn), pushes him to marry her daughter Cecilia (Emily Mortimer, who plays this role in unflattering make-up so she looks plain). This doesn't make the other young British administrator, Neville Shipperly (played with superb chinless sleaze by Noah Taylor) at all happy, for he had designs upon Cecilia for himself.

Jessica Alba's acting skills are fairly limited (not that she's required to do much here), and easily surpassed by Hugh Dancy, who does a superb job of English prig on arrival, gradually learning that the Iban, and others, are people too.

This film was shot in Malaysia, and the river and jungle scenery is really quite lovely.

The love story is nicely told, set among the ugliness of British colonialism.