One thing you can always say about Nicolas Cage is that he commits to what he’s doing. Whether it’s a premise you can get behind or not, that’s been a variable over the years. Cage, however, is always all in. With Dream Scenario, he’s chosen a project that I was just not able to get behind. Playing at the Toronto International Film Festival, it seems like I’m going to be in the minority when it comes to this movie.
Dream Scenario is a weird one, that’s for sure. It’s doing a lot of interesting things, just in a way that never connected for me. At times, it’s funny. At other points, it’s surprising. However, by the end, it doesn’t feel like it adds up to enough to warrant a recommendation. Maybe it was just me, but I appreciate Cage here, but the rest of it left me pretty cold.
Ordinary family man Paul Matthews (Cage) is a meek college professor, looked at askance by his children, though loved by his wife Janet (Julianne Nicholson). He’s just existing, essentially. Then, one day, people begin looking at him strangely. Eventually, he learns that he’s popping up in their dreams. Everyone’s dreams. He’s just there. Paul has no control over it, but in short order, he’s become rather famous.
When his nighttime appearances take a turn for the dark and nightmarish, Paul’s stardom changes. Forced to navigate this new scenario, he finds things crumbling, even before a new invention throws him for a bigger loop. Where this movie ends, compared to where it starts, is a big leap, but if you’re vibing with it, you’ll be fully engaged. If not, you may well just be puzzled.
Nicolas Cage is fully committed, as always, but I’m not certain that the movie is utilizing him as well as it could have. His schlubby nature is funny at first, but it started to wear thin. Now, Cage is doing what he can, and it’s one of his most unusual roles, but I wanted a bit more. Julianne Nicholson is sadly under-served by the material. Supporting players include Dylan Baker, Michael Cera, Dylan Gelula, Tim Meadows, and more, though Cage is the main event.
Filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli is chock full of ideas, but I didn’t feel like any of them were fully realized. Borgli has Cage to play with, and at times seems to be just doing that, but the headier and weirder it gets, the more it feels like the flick is flailing to find meaning. Others may find a ton to dig into here, but I just simply did not.
Dream Scenario never becomes boring, but it does frustrate you if you don’t get on its specific wavelength. I wasn’t able to, so it wound up being one of the more disappointing TIFF titles this year. Your mileage may vary, so keep that in mind, but this one just simply was not for me.