Review: Dream Scenario

One of the weirder, but very consumable, comedies seen in a while.

Paul Matthews is your average, everyday man. But his life changes forever when people across the globe, people who don’t even know him, are experiencing dreams with him in them. How does this phenomenon affect him… and the world?

A big release by Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli, Dream Scenario stars Nicolas Cage as Paul, a hapless professor, father of two, and husband for fifteen years, hoping to publish a book (that he hasn’t started writing yet) on ant intelligence. He and his wife have little to no interest in attention and live quiet, perhaps na├»ve, lives, away from wider social conformities.

Let’s start with the first thing about the movie: the marketing.

Like a lot of unorthodox movies, selling it to an audience can be a difficult task. Dream Scenario‘s trailers are very much weighted on it being a comedy. “Pure comedy gold”, the poster quote says. “Cage has never been funnier”, it continues. Now, the film does have its funny moments; it certainly had the audience laughing at the correct moments and genuinely, but that is certainly not the whole picture.
The film has an intensity, an existentialism, and a very dark core. Audiences might be taken off-guard should they go into this film expecting some sort of “laugh-a-minute” movie experience.

Fortunately, the film is very good regardless. Nic Cage as Paul and Julianne Nicholson as his wife Janet play surprisingly human roles; the chemistry on screen is well realized and they give a sense that there is fifteen years of history. But at the same time, they aren’t socially well-adjusted… and this reflects well with their children, two daughters (played by Lily Bird and Jessica Clement) who excel at the eye-rolling and bemused onlookers of their parents’ behaviour.

Just because he isn’t a Marvel character doesn’t mean he’s a loser.

The film starts extremely strong with this, and the growing epidemic that is people simply recognising Paul while having never met him before. There is a wonderful playfulness as Paul’s rather stagnant life choices and placid nature make him completely ineffectual in people’s dreams. Someone is being chased by a horrible monster, all the while Paul is just passively there, “taking up space”. It is delightfully silly, with some fun dream-logic and dream-physics going on, which makes it a fun experience all around.
Of course, the film is doing some subtle but rewarding things in the background. Paul’s real life exchanges and developments affect his dream-persona somehow, and people start reacting to him in different ways en masse. This, coupled with his new found fame for appearing in people’s dreams, leads to the film questioning us: How would you react if you suddenly became famous?

Hopefully better than Paul does!

The film’s escalation is very strong. For a story that’s only 100 minutes long, a lot happens. But it should be said that it isn’t all comedic; far from it. The film’s certification has a lot of warnings attached for a reason. The film goes to some dark places, albeit sometimes briefly.

It still plays around with it with delight, in ways that only Nicolas Cage could possibly deliver. Indeed, even early on, with Paul being so passive and harmless… it is still Nic Cage; as a movie-going audience we are hardwired now to suspect something is going on. Something unhinged.

The final act, without giving away spoilers, wasn’t exactly expected. It felt as though the film wanted to have its cake and eat it too, as the saying goes. At the midpoint, the story feels as though there is only really one way it can go… but by the end it has sort of usurped its own momentum and heel-turned quite suddenly.

But it is a very interesting and fun movie. It is one of those unique experiences that you won’t soon forget!
More adult than the trailers maybe suggest, and full of existential quandaries and dark imagery at times. It will leave you feeling mentally bruised but also elated and challenged.

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