Forty Winks Image

Forty Winks

By Alan Ng | April 19, 2022

As humans, we tend to dig into our bad decisions in life. We think that if we just somehow continue down that dark path, certainly there’s an escape, and all the bad will be over. Such is the dilemma for a professional hustler in Will Parker’s feature film, Forty Winks.

Justin Marcel McManus plays Fabio Baker, a struggling grifter with skills in hypnotism. The con is simple. Fabio has established himself professionally as a hypnotherapist. However, he sees clients with various mental ailments and never gets anywhere close to helping them to ensure they come back for their weekly sessions. Instead, he resorts to mind reading (cold reading scam) and tarot cards, particularly when he feels his clients slipping away.

The grind of his monotonous everyday life is beginning to wear on Fabio. He’s stuck in life and the con, and before he can catch his breath, Fabio is visited by the mysterious Connie Montoya (Susan Sarandon). Connie has done a little research on him and discovered that he is a fraud. Blackmail is the game, and Connie promises not to expose his operation in exchange for free “sessions” with some of her victims associates. Fabio soon realizes he’s in over his head.

First, I’m in awe of how Forty Winks was made. There’s a long list of big names appearing in Parker’s film. Susan Sarandon and John Turturro appear on screen, with Sarandon taking on a significant role. How did they wind up in this film? I don’t know, nor do I want to.

“…never gets anywhere close to helping them to ensure they come back for their weekly sessions.”

The story is essentially a series of conversations where Fabio finds himself less and less in control of his destiny. Shot in black and white, most of the action takes place on small sets for a television spot and in an office for Fabio’s therapy. Parker’s film is chock full of emerging bit-part actors, and I’m simply in awe seeing many of them acting against Sarandon.

I would consider Forty Winks more of an art film than a dramatic narrative. The film is pretty much a very-low budget noir, but it has indie charm. Fabio’s world is surreal, and the overall plot matches. Low budget effects and editing are employed to create the feeling of being hypnotized, and its productions values are sparse.

My criticism surrounds the stakes at play. Narratively speaking, they should be really high as Fabio’s life is in the hands of Connie Montoya. But the stakes never feel that high at all. Instead, there’s a bit of a wink-at-the-camera cheekiness with some of the tense situations and the over-the-top stereotypes of the characters. The exception is John Turturro as Milo, the paper delivery guy. Though he’s delivering a ream of letter-sized paper, his performance grounds Milo in the drama in a way I wish was consistent with the rest of the film.

Also, the conclusion is a bit problematic as the story just ends. Obviously, I can’t give it away, but it sort of just peters out with a bit of narration — almost as if some of the horrific events never happened… hmm, I wonder. There are loose threads that need to be tied up, and it doesn’t happen in a satisfactory way.

As a purveyor of independent film, I’m utterly fascinated with Forty Winks. However, I wonder what the film would be if it had tens of thousands of dollars for professional cameras, lighting, and set design. How about money for more seasoned character actors and better hypnotic effects. At the same time, Sarandon and Turturro are fantastic acting against lead McManus. But money can’t buy the indie guerrilla filmmaking charms that ooze all over Parker’s film.

Forty Winks (2022)

Directed and Written: William Atticus Parker

Starring: Justin Marcel McManus, Susan Sarandon, John Turturro, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Forty Winks Image

"…I'm utterly fascinated with Forty Winks."

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