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Dream Scenario


Stars: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Nicholson, Lily Bird, Dylan Gelula, Dylan Baker, Michael Cera, Marc Coppola, Jessica Clement

Director: Kristoffer Borgli

Bewilderingly lauded by most American critics, this is a badly handled attempt at a dark fantasy-comedy, although there's little to laugh at here. And, adopting an alienating approach, the film is tonally all over the shop.

Things start promisingly, and the dialogue suggests mid-life Woody Allen written by the little master himself. University lecturer Paul Matthews (a bald, bearded and bespectacled Cage) finds his classes sparsely attended and a dream of writing a book on his subjects as distant as ever, not that it worries his warmly loving wife (Nicholson) and two sub-teen daughters.

Until, that is, Paul begins appearing as a character in other people's dreams: old acquaintances, students, even people he has never met, usually as an apathetic bystander to the dream's action. Students flock back to the classroom, Paul soon finds himself a celebrity, and an ad agency agrees to fund his (unwritten) book, as long as plugs such products as Sprite on the side.

Then the dreams take a darker turn; violence and rape become commonplace. Students, at first curious, begin to fear their professor and quit his lectures in droves.

As Paul's life falls apart, so does the film, with the lecturer, now a pariah, even asked to leave restaurants, finding his fortunes going from bad to worse, mirroring the mishandled movie. Tragedy looms, but never quite arrives, as the film rambles on and on, recycling old ground.

It's a nasty little piece all round, although sharper dialogue and a less full-throttle performance from the star might have helped. A bit.

David Quinlan

Canada/USA 2023. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Colour (unspecified).
101 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 05 Nov 2023