Dream Scenario (TIFF) Review

Nicolas Cage stars in this scathing social satire which comes from producer Ari Aster and director Kristoffer Borgli.

PLOT: A mild-mannered academic (Nicolas Cage) discovers that he’s the center of a strange phenomenon, with people worldwide suddenly seeing him in their dreams. At first, thrilled with the attention and sudden fame, he finds himself despised and “cancelled” when the dreams turn violent.

REVIEW: Dream Scenario is a very “now” movie, with it a blazing satire of sudden fame and “cancel culture,” with director Kristoffer Borgli showing utter contempt for both. It’s the perfect vehicle for Nicolas Cage, as perhaps more than any actor, his likeness has been commodified over the years, being used and manipulated in meme after meme in a way that’s totally out of his control. 

Likewise, his character, Paul Matthews, has no control over how people view him. Sporting a bald pate, a beard and the kind of nasal voice he used in Peggy Sue Got Married, Cage fully inhabits the role in a way that capitalizes on the funny parts of the story but also has a certain degree of pathos as the film goes on. While the name Ari Aster will be something the film is sold on, given that he’s a producer, Dream Scenario is an absurdist comedy with only slight genre elements worked in. Notably, once Matthews finds himself unwillingly being turned into a Freddy Krueger-esque figure, you see some of the gorier dreams play out brutally. Still, if Borgli wants his audience to fear anything, it’s the public’s need to punish, with his crimes here literally being imagined. 

dream scenario review

This will undoubtedly make Dream Scenario a hotly debated film once it comes out, with Borgli’s script relentlessly mocking the easily triggered and (especially) how academia in the U.S. will cave to student sensitivities. The premise is ridiculous but were such a thing to happen, one could imagine it playing out similarly to this. 

For Cage, this is one of his most memorable parts in years. It’s a throwback to the work he used to do back in his heyday, feeling like a companion piece to Charlie Kauffman’s Adaptation. He’s supported by a solid cast, including the always good Julianne Nicholson as his wife, who, with Matthews, enjoys the perks of fame at first but then finds herself turning against her husband, even if she knows it’s a situation he can’t control. Michael Cera has a small role as the head of a PR agency called “Thoughts,” which attempts to turn Matthews into a pitchman. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Dylan Gelula has one of the best parts, as a young woman whose dreams of the hefty, middle-aged Matthews are erotic. She and Cage have a hilarious quasi-seduction scene that includes nervous farting that had the TIFF audience I saw this with cackling with delight. Also, keep an eye out for Tim Meadows and Dylan Baker as Paul’s fellow spineless academics, although some cameos towards the end and a final twist threaten to derail the film somewhat. A bit at the end plays out like a skit from SNL and is perhaps a little too on the nose. But otherwise, this is pretty sophisticated.  

Dream Scenario is a clever social satire that should do wonders for Cage’s indie cred. Along with Pig, it’s evidence that when Cage gets the proper role, nobody’s better, and while this might be more overtly hilarious than some were expecting, given how it was initially teased, it’s entertaining and oh-so timely. 

dream scenario review

7

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/dream-scenario-tiff-review/

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