Dreams are funny little things that our minds play with when the rest of our body is resting or asleep. For some, they might be working over the things that are on their mind during the day. Others, it might be a struggle to face your fears in a place where you aren’t physically in danger. But what if there was someone watching you in your dreams? A24’s Dream Scenario tackles this exact thought with Nicholas Cage being the “man of your dreams” in this dark comedy of limitless possibilities.
Paul Matthews, Cage’s character and the protagonist of this film, is an unremarkable professor who desperately wants his work to be appreciated. For some inexplicable reason, people start seeing Paul’s likeness in their dreams while they are asleep. The news reaches Paul in the waking world and he instantly becomes a viral, Internet-famous celebrity which for Paul is a dream come true to have his own talents recognised in his field of study. Soon, the likeness of Paul in the dreams becomes less of a passive observer and more of a nightmare to his audience of millions, which starts to create obstacles for the real Paul and his family.
Generally, this concept of dreamwalking and the perils of viral stardom sounds like an entertaining narrative. The scenes of people’s dreams are wild and imaginative as one would expect from the sleeping consciousness of millions, from every age group. Even with traditional Studio A24 twists, the film does a good job of keeping your attention to see how Paul navigates through this supernatural phenomenon. (I’m trying my best not to make parallels to the Subspace Highways of Scott Pilgrim in this example.)
Nicholas Cage, who we’re all here to see in this film, does give a respectable performance in his initial acting of a mild-mannered professor. However, the claims of this being his best comedic role in years feel unearned. I will admit that dark comedies can sometimes be lost on me, but even at the preview screening I went to for the film, there weren’t a whole lot of laugh-out-loud moments from the audience. It was more experiencing the madness of a bad situation getting worse by Paul’s ego growing as the viral star he was built up to be. There are funny scenes, but like most notable A24 films, expect things to get dark sooner rather than later.
Overall, the film is good enough to stand as a thought-provoking narrative, or maybe even a character study on what social media can do to a person who wouldn’t know a reel from a story. There are some standout scenes with cameos, like Michael Cera for instance, that did make me smile. (Still trying to stay away from Scott Pilgrim…) However, if you’re looking for laughs and a feel-good time for Paul and his family, then keep dreaming, because your gut will remain unbusted through the duration of this film.
I give Dream Scenario a score of three out of five tickets. Nicholas Cage’s branching out is a good act, but don’t expect to get swept away from jokes from this dark comedy.
Dream Scenario is in limited release now and will be in wide release in U.S. cinemas on November 22nd.