[Courtesy of A24]

Movie Review: Dream Scenario

07:00 December 05, 2023
By: Fritz Esker

Dream Scenario

Kristoffer Borgli's new film Dream Scenario has an intriguing premise: what if a completely ordinary man suddenly began appearing in most people's dreams? Unfortunately, it suffers from some jarring tonal shifts and a muddled message.

Nicolas Cage plays Paul, a college professor with a wife and two daughters. He's a little dweeby and a little frustrated with his career. He wants to write a book but can't seem to get going on it, and his students seem disinterested in his lectures. But he becomes a viral celebrity when he starts appearing in people's dreams. At first, he's just passively watches in the dreams while crazy things happen.

But after Paul becomes a celebrity, things take a darker turn when Paul starts doing sinister things in the dreams. Once this happens, he finds himself regularly shunned and asked to leave when he does things like try to eat in a restaurant. His car is vandalized and even his daughter's school doesn't want him showing up to school events.

The movie's clearly trying to be an analogy about modern celebrity culture and modern shaming culture (a.k.a. cancel culture). But one problem is the movie's unrelenting ugliness in its second half clashes with the tone in the first half of the film.

The message is also iffy. There's a scene where Paul makes an apology video that quickly detours into self-pity and he is chastised by his daughter for its insincerity. While in real life, there have been cases where a person who actually has committed a crime or done something bad released a statement where they tried to paint themselves as a victim. But in Dream Scenario, Paul actually is a victim. It's not his fault he appears in people's dreams. He does not deserve the treatment he receives. But the movie seems to relish tormenting and humiliating him in its final half.

A late tangent involving corporations harnessing dream-entering technology is funny but represents a missed opportunity the film should have explored more. And "missed opportunity" is a good way to describe the film itself.

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