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  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Dream Scenario (A Movie Review)

Updated: Nov 27, 2023


Starring Nicolas Cage, Julianne Nicholson, Michael Cera, Tim Meadows, Dylan Gelula, Dylan Baker, Kate Berlant, Lily Bird, Jessica Clement, David Klein, Cara Volchoff, Noah Centineo, Nicholas Braun, Amber Midthunder, Lily Gao, Star Slade, Kaleb Horn, Liz Adjei, Paula Boudreau, Marnie McPhail Diamond, Noah Lamanna, Maev Beaty and Marc Coppola.

Screenplay by Kristoffer Borgli.

Directed by Kristoffer Borgli.

Distributed by A24. 100 minutes. Rated R.

Sometimes a movie has a concept which is so clever that it makes you overlook some of the film’s flaws. Dream Scenario has its own dream scenario, which is funny, a little disorienting, and occasionally rather scary. And yet, it mostly works.

The storyline is relatively simple and yet surprisingly complex, opening up many intriguing avenues of thought.

Nicolas Cage stars as Paul Matthews, a college professor who is only remarkable in his complete lack of remarkability. He’s overweight, balding, shy, a bit of a nebbish, and the type of person that people look right past (or through) when he crosses their paths.

One night his daughter (Lily Bird) has a nightmare in which she finds herself in mortal danger. And her dad is in the dream, completely oblivious to what is going on, simply standing in the background and watching passively.

Soon it turns out that almost everyone he runs across – whether they are people he knows or strangers – has had similar dreams, in which he impassively passes through their nightmares. He is a strange oasis of calm in the midst of chaos. Not everyone has the dreams – for example his wife, boss and best friend have all avoided them – but shockingly many people do have them.

And soon, due to his accidental (or at least unexplainable) ubiquity in people’s dreams, Matthews becomes something of a celebrity – the dream guy. Suddenly people want to know him, want to talk with him, want to interview him. For a man who has long flown below the radar in life, it becomes rather seductive.

While it’s quite a unique idea, it’s not completely original – there are some definite story parallels to the Roberto Benigni section of Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love and I seem to remember some other projects which swam in similar waters.

Everything changes when dream Paul inexplicably starts taking a more active role in people’s dreams, to the point that he becomes disturbingly violent. After being a mostly magnanimous force in people’s dreamtime, he turns into someone more threatening and scarier.

As quickly as he found his strange inexplicable fame, he is thrust into infamy for a reason over which he has no more control than his fame. His life is suddenly thrown into chaos – everyone fears him, no one wants to talk to him or deal with him, his job, his friendships and his marriage are put into real jeopardy.

Dream Scenario asks a lot of intriguing questions about modern life – from the ubiquity of unearned celebrity to the perils of cancel culture.

Towards the end, writer/director Borgli branches out a bit too far – throwing in some rather unnecessary late jabs at social media influencers (a favorite target of the filmmaker, which he also took on with his earlier movies DRIB and Sick of Myself) and subliminal advertising which sort of derail the main storyline.

However, the good parts of Dream Scenario mostly overshadow the missteps. It is certainly a surreal and cynical look at modern life, but it also is often a very funny one.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: November 24, 2023.


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