“Dream Scenario”


Metacritic (8/10), Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10), TMDB.com (4/5)

Packing a lot of material and ideas into a single film can result in a muddled, confusing mess, no matter how well-meaning a filmmaker’s intentions might be. However, in his third feature outing, writer-director Kristoffer Borgli succeeds for the most part when it comes to tackling such an imposing task. This offbeat tale of tenured but underappreciated university professor (Nicolas Cage) takes viewers on a wild ride through the diverse realms of fame, metaphysics, cancel culture, unrelenting group think, and unexpressed, underpursued desire, and the downside consequences of each. All of this comes about when the middle-aged everyman protagonist inexplicably begins showing up in the dreams of countless people, many of whom he doesn’t even know. This curious oneiric anomaly – an inspired metaphor for one’s presence on social media and in the public eye – quickly transforms him into an overnight viral media sensation, one that starts off with a generous showering of attention and lustful admiration but that almost as quickly leads him to become a scorned put-upon pariah. He swiftly becomes more than just yesterday’s news; he turns into the object of a targeted campaign of cancel culture, hate speech and unapologetic ostracism. And, ironically, it all stems from something he never wanted nor asked for in the first place (at least in the form it ultimately took). From the foregoing description, it might sound like the filmmaker has tried to overstuff this vehicle with far too much material for viewers to process and comprehend, and there are points in the story (especially in the last half hour) where a good case could be made for that argument. However, in telling this allegorical fable, the director manages to keep the narrative’s ideas distinctly sorted and in context to drive home his message, a powerful cautionary tale about the point we’ve collectively reached as a society with respect to these powerful and potentially damaging matters and practices. These are notions that we all need to hear but seldom do because of all the noise surrounding us that prevents us from hearing the music because of all the notes. For all this seriousness, however, “Dream Scenario” is loaded with hilarious, laugh-out-loud humor and fine performances all around (especially Cage and Michael Cera as an empty-headed, self-absorbed brand management expert), complemented with skillful film editing and carefully selected incidental shots that effectively punctuate the mood of many scenes. The script is generally solid, too, though it begins to stray somewhat from the material that works best in the final act, and there are a few graphically violent sequences that sensitive viewers should be wary of. On balance, though, this is the kind of production that should be made in greater numbers in an age where so many of us have lost touch with reason, our existence and ourselves. Maybe watching an offering like this could help us all sit up, think and get back on track while we still can.