Aniston of the Week: Dream for an Insomniac

For the second edition of Aniston of the Week, we look back to the early days of Jennifer’s career – not the TV years when she appeared as Jeannie in the Ferris Bueller series – but those days after Friends started but before she became a regular in romantic comedies. Jennifer’s first movie was The Leprechaun (Mark Jones, 1993) but we’ll get to that later, instead we’ll explore a movie in which Jennifer plays the role of ‘the best friend’ – a role that would later be typical of actors such as Judy Greer to Aniston’s star turn.

Aniston as Allison

FILM: Dream for an Insomniac
DIRECTOR: Tiffanie DeBartolo
YEAR: 1996
CHARACTER NAME AND PROFESSION: Allison, aspiring actor.
PLOT SUMMARY: Set in San Francisco, Frankie (Ione Skye) is an orphaned, insomniac, romantic idealist who lives above her uncle Leo’s (Seymour Cassel) café – Café Blue Eyes, where she works occasionally with her cousin Rob (Michael Landes). She and her best friend Allison (Aniston) are due to depart for LA in three days so they can pursue their acting ambitions. Cynical Frankie doesn’t think her ideal man exists because her mother told her not to settle for anything less than the blue eyes (hence the café name) of Frank Sinatra. Lo and behold, in walks David (Mackenzie Astin) one day, a blue-eyed writer looking for a job. Frankie falls for him, but surprise! He has a girlfriend.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Ambitious, nurturing, witty, generous – your basic Best. Friend. Ever.

Aniston as Allison, giving advice like a best friend should.
Aniston as Allison, giving advice like a best friend should.

NOTES ON PERFORMANCE: Aniston had been playing Rachel Green in Friends for two years at this point, and it’s apparent that Allison owes a lot to the Rachel persona, as some of the same mannerisms – hand gestures, expressions etc. – are present, alongside of course THE HAIR. Nevertheless, Aniston basically underplays the role, letting Skye remain the heart of the film. She also gamely adds in this habit of Allison’s to try out different accents in almost every scene (she’s French when introduced) because, y’know, she’s an actor! Her southern drawl is probably the most convincing, but watch out for a scene toward the end in which she’s supposed to be Indian (I think), which is, as you can imagine, just plain wrong.

l-r Sean Blackman, Jennifer Aniston, Ione Skye, Mackenzie Astin
l-r Sean Blackman, Jennifer Aniston, Ione Skye, Mackenzie Astin

NOTES ON FILM: Dream for an Insomniac is shot in black and white for the film’s first 20 minutes and bursts into colour the the moment blue-eyed David shows up, which is but one of the many ways the film references classic Hollywood, and of course Sinatra et al. Pop-cultural references abound elsewhere too, with one scene in which the characters discuss the ‘God’ status of Bono versus Michael Stipe. Like Reality Bites (Ben Stiller, 1994) and Singles (Cameron Crowe, 1992), it’s your essential Gen-X set-up, but unlike those films, Dream for an Insomniac doesn’t convince in its characterisation or setting.

CONCLUSION: Aniston provides effortless charm in a film that tries too hard to be charming.

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