Dreams come and go. They can come in a variety of random things. And a portion of them can be forgotten the next day, as if they were nothing. Others stick to you like glue, and have you thinking for a while. Sometimes, in my case, I wake up by trying to respond to a comment or question. What do I know? I’m no dream expert; I’m just laying out my perspectives on them.
“Dream Scenario” wants to satirize that by turning it into some kind of a horror comedy. Not in the commercial sense like “Scream,” but more in the independent circuit, especially since Ari Aster is the producer and Kristoffer Borgli (“Sick of Myself”) is the writer and director. I guess that’s why we get dreams about college students in tuxedos eating mushrooms and being chased by bloody killers, and why a man’s status can transition from a random guy to a feared character. And he’s a normal guy in real life.
It would also make sense that Nicolas Cage feels like a Charlie Kaufman character (and he has played him in “Adaptation”), when adapting to an original character who has his ambitions while being trapped in some kind of fantasy that transcends from dreams to nightmares. It can be funny when it needs to be and dark when it chooses to be; and you’re sitting there wondering how a movie like “Dream Scenario” would play out.
Cage plays Paul Matthews, a college professor, who has literally been on a lot of people’s minds lately. He’s appearing in their dreams, not doing anything. His ex-girlfriend Claire (Marnie McPhail) writes a blog about him, and it goes viral up to the point of people sending him Facebook messages and is up for an interview. Why is this happening? No-one knows, but it could be related to the Mandela Effect, which is a type of false memory that is widely shared a large group of people.
His wife (Julianne Nicholson) and his boss and friend (Tim Meadows) both think he should call this off. But how can he? He’s not in control of this fantasy. That is if it is a fantasy. Besides, during a meeting with a marketing hotshot named Trent (Michael Cera), he tells him he’s been planning to publish a book, and he doesn’t want his current fame to be the main topic on Wikipedia. He just wants to get recognition on a smaller scale. The kind when certain people aren’t household names, but have made impacts on specific groups of people.
The movie has to go in full Borgli and Aster mode, as the dream Paul starts assaulting and killing people. This affects his job, his friends, his family, and his status, especially when people kick him out of places or write “LOSER” on his car, and even accuse him of hurting people. This is when things have to be irritating in the script.
But does “Dream Scenario” have to be a mediocre or bad movie because of that notion? In your dreams. Besides, there is some good to come out of the third act. Cage powerfully expresses his emotions when he tries to assure people he’s a good person in a video apology (which turns out to the self-pitying), and it wants to enter “Her” territory when the future starts to kick in a bit.
If I was in a situation or fantasy (or whatever the Hell we should call it), it would be nice to get some recognition, but stressful when people start to turn your back on you. It’s difficult to acknowledge the real cause of all this, or how a person would really feel, but this is just me talking. “Dream Scenario” has the nerve to express all of this, kudos to Cage, Borgli, and Aster, and it’s sure to get people talking about it. After all, it is distributed by A24, the independent studio known for dividing people on certain movies with certain themes.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4.
Now Playing in Select Theaters and Expands Everywhere December 1