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‘Dream Scenario’ Review: People Can’t Stop Dreaming About Nicolas Cage in a Wildly Surreal Comedy About Internet Fame


Norwegian filmmaker Christopher Borgli is obsessed with the impact of the Internet on the collective unconscious and – in turn – the impact of the collective unconscious on individual self-image. In other words, he makes intensely online movies about modern fame.

Borgli’s first film, “Drib”, was an unclassifiable meta-satire about 21st century marketing, and his follow-up film, “Sick of Myself”, tells the story of a beautiful young barista so desperate for attention That’s when she starts taking massive doses. An underground Russian club drug that causes the flesh to rot from his bones so that people can see him. His third and most complete film, the hilariously surreal (and comparatively sweet) “Dream Scenario,” is a Kaufman-esque cautionary tale, starring Nicolas Cage as a nerdy college professor who discovers the world in its sleep. Suddenly he starts appearing to strangers. A meme without a modem. First it’s a novelty, then it’s a blessing, and then it’s a nightmare. Attention is nice, but buyer beware: You have no control over how other people see you in their minds.

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Before it becomes what Borgli describes as one of his “creative threats to our collective behavior,” “Dream Scenario” is the most absurd comedy of its kind since “Anomalisa” (the Kaufman connection being further strengthened by Cage’s performance which seems like it was born out of superimposing both of his “adaptable” characters on top of each other. …and also from the ongoing joke about the ant race). We first meet Paul Matthews – bald, goofy, and nasal to the point that it turns out he just has a giant nasal polyp inside his head – in a dream that one of his two daughters is having. Used to be. It’s a dream that very accurately satirizes their general feeling of abject uselessness: various objects fall from the sky (keys, shoes, a human being) and threaten to crush their teenage daughter to death because Paul Rakes her way past the pool, and yet she doesn’t move a muscle to intervene. He is standing there. He also does not have the “force majeure” instinct for self-preservation.

Paul generally seems like a big loser, but he works at the local university, his kids adore him, and he’s married to Julianne Nicholson; By the standards of an unapologetic evolutionary biologist professor who sounds like Steve Urkel and wishes he could take his face off, our guy is just fine. But there’s always a part of you that wants more, and that’s the part that gets you into trouble. Sure, Paul would have taken his wife’s last name, and yes, someone who teaches his students about the Darwinian effectiveness of zebra stripes – which help the animals survive by allowing them to blend in in herds Is – maybe he should know better, but he can’t help but want a little recognition, even if it might attract a few predators along the way.

So yes, when an ex-girlfriend comes out to reveal that she’s been dreaming about him all the time, Paul isn’t mad at all. She can’t imagine why her subconscious is focused on such an ordinary person from her past (and why it’s only Paul). stand there Regardless of what else is going on in the chaos of his sleeping mind), but it seems worth mentioning. And soon after, like a hyper-accelerated version of the Mandela Effect, hundreds of other people also start seeing Paul in their dreams. And then thousands. And then, as he reaches the tipping point required to become a new kind of viral celebrity, what he does in people’s dreams begins to change.

Borgli may have some trouble measuring the physical horror in “Sick of Myself,” but the flexible premise of his latest script gives him no such trouble; Of all the high-concept semi-comedies we get these days, few have had this much fun following its own rules to their logical conclusions. The sight of a bearded Cage standing indifferently off to the side as one is torn to pieces by a blood demon created by one’s own subconscious is inherently funny (Ari Aster is one of the film’s producers. , and his fingerprints are everywhere), and Paul’s general confusion over the state of his waking life is also reliable comedic gold. There’s a shit-eating aspect to how much he delights in attracting new attention, and the only predictable thing about this movie is that Paul is on the same trajectory as John Cusack’s ego-driven puppeteer in “Being John Malkovich.” is going to follow, but the first half of “Dream Scenario” thinks of him with the sweetness of a humble guy who went viral without even trying. Like Ken Bone, but somehow less intelligent.

It is only when Paul’s role in other people’s dreams begins to develop that he begins to entertain the full potential of his latent fame, and Borgli similarly jumps at the chance to make the most of it. What he does with that opportunity looks very different from what Daniels has created from the recent scenarios allowed. Them to violate the limits of conventional logic, but the consequences of Borgli’s minimalism are almost as radical.

What results from Paul’s meeting with a branding agency led by Michael Cera is best left for viewers to discover for themselves (Obama’s involvement is just the tip of the iceberg), but Dylan Gelula’s A close-up is biting her lip in Paul’s general direction – the performance by the “Her Smell” actress playing Cera’s assistant has the same ironic detachment and psychotic lust that is so much fun throughout the film – it’s a Enough to get the basic idea of ​​what happens next. It’s a strange and powerful thing to be in people’s minds all the time, and very few (if any) movies have portrayed better or more literally how the human brain didn’t evolve to handle such a complete lack of mental limitations. Is.

Given how inevitable it became that “Dream Scenario” would turn to cancel culture in its third run, it’s a shame that Borgli struggles to have more fun with that part of Paul’s trajectory. As the professor’s fame begins to creep in, his imagination wanes a bit, and while the film’s core conceit provides an over-the-top expression of what it feels like to be scorned by strangers for something Which you feel as if you haven’t done. (Paul’s actions in other people’s dreams are perhaps more obviously disturbing to the public than a bad tweet, but still completely different from physical reality), this last part of the story has the same force of absurdity as the rest. is too mundane to get down to ground with. Its.

If “Dream Scenario” never risks getting sucked into the same kind of nightmare it watches over its characters, that’s because of how delicately it wields its empathy. Paul is every bit as pathetic and annoying as those online personalities we live with every day, but he’s also at the mercy of a mental structure that has little to do with him, and hence “cancel culture.” All it does is protect itself from being too obvious – or, on the other hand, from trolling too much – because we can never be sure to what extent it deserves to be untouchable. At the end of the day, the thing Paul is most guilty of is losing track of what is real; Giving priority to his role in the collective unconscious over the role he plays for the people who actually care about him in real life. And in this way, “Dream Scenario” doesn’t represent a groundbreaking new form of comedy so much as it resolves an ingenious modern riff on that most classic of morals: love is everything, and choice just happens to sell books. Are good.

Grade: B+

“Dream Scenario” premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. A24 will release it in theaters on Friday, November 10.

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