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Review: Dream Scenario (2023)

Dream Scenario (2023)

Directed by: Kristoffer Borgli

Premise: A professor (Nicolas Cage) appears in the dreams of strangers. He becomes a nationally recognized celebrity which starts out fun but also draws unwanted attention.

What Works: Nicolas Cage has a reputation for giving wild performances in a range of movies, some that are great and others that are schlock and his film career has inspired a trove of memes. In recent years Cage has increasingly made interesting pictures such as Pig and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent that interrogated his unique status as an actor and as a celebrity. Casting Cage in Dream Scenario is brilliant. The role perfectly fits the particulars of his career and Cage gives one of his best performances. He plays a professor who inexplicably appears in people’s dreams which leads to Cage’s character becoming a celebrity. The film deals with the deficit between reality and fantasy and the trouble people may have distinguishing between them. The professor represents various things in different people’s dreams which keeps everyone from seeing Cage’s character as a person with his own life and personality. The filmmakers add additional layers onto this core idea. Dream Scenario conveys late middle age malaise with Cage’s character coping with his own ordinariness and a career that hasn’t worked out quite the way he wanted. Celebrity offers a chance for a more exciting life and opportunities for professional advancement but here as well things don’t quite work out. Cage’s character is boxed in by other people’s preconceptions. This takes a dark turn late in the movie as people resent his presence in their dreams and Dream Scenario interrogates the dark side of celebrity and satirizes contemporary obsessions with emotional reasoning and safetyism. This is a thoughtful movie that’s very funny but with a serious point about how perceptions and desires shape our reality and the way our identity can be hijacked by the cultural hive mind.

What Doesn’t: There is a development very late in Dream Scenario in which tech companies develop a way to project themselves into people’s dreams. This idea fits thematically and it’s funny but the concept is also underdeveloped and diminishes the mysteriousness of the protagonist’s experience. The fantasy sequences of Dream Scenario are very literal. The movie references A Nightmare on Elm Street but the dream sequences aren’t as creative as that series nor does it manipulate our perceptions the way that film did.

Bottom Line: Dream Scenario is entertaining and very smart and it features one of Nicolas Cage’s best performances. It mixes humor and drama quite well and like a good dream (or a nightmare) the movie offers a lot to think about afterward.

Episode: #976 (December 10, 2023)