‘Dream Scenario’ Film Review – The Ups and Downs of Being Far Too Known in the Wrong Way

‘Dream Scenario’ Film Review – The Ups and Downs of Being Far Too Known in the Wrong Way

Being told that you appeared in someone else’s dream can be uneasy news to receive. That someone remembers it likely means that something significant happened and the dreamer might still be actively thinking about it. But it’s not actually related to real life, at least not in any proven way, though people are often so affected by what someone does in a dream that it changes their perception of them. Dream Scenario takes that concept to a whole new level with the story of a totally average man who gets catapulted into the spotlight when he starts showing up in the dreams of many people he doesn’t know.

Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) is a professor who, to put it bluntly, just isn’t all that memorable. That all changes when people suddenly start seeing him in their dreams, but as a silent bystander to whatever else is happening. The newfound fame he achieves is something for which he’s entirely unprepared, and he seeks to parlay the attention into an opportunity for him to finally write the evolutionary biology book he’s wanted to for years. But all the hoopla doesn’t stay positive for long as, through no fault of his own, Paul’s appearances in everyone’s dreams take a much darker turn.

Dream Scenario
Courtesy A24

It’s interesting to see the roles that Cage, an action star two decades ago who headlined The Rock and Face/Off, among others, is now choosing. Last year, he parodied himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, and played Dracula earlier this year in Renfield. This is a part that might seem perfect for him, but it actually asks of him something very different than he’s used to, which is to remain mild-mannered and never get nearly as upset or passionate about something as he should. Paul’s social skills simply aren’t refined enough for him to know what to do with his situation, and every attempt to embrace it ends awkwardly. He also can’t stand the fact that he doesn’t do anything in people’s dreams other than exist, and when that changes, it’s not a good thing.

This is by definition a bizarre movie, and it’s one that remains relatively isolated in its portrayal of Paul’s path from anonymous to world-famous to pariah. The happy marriage he shares with his wife Janet (Julianne Nicholson) and the relationship he has with his two younger daughters, Hannah (Jessica Clement) and Sophie (Lily Bird), provides some solace, but once he gets too in his head, he starts to lose them too.

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It’s hardly a pleasant experience since Paul is hopeless to control his circumstances, and the little power he does have he doesn’t put to productive use.

Dream Scenario
Courtesy A24

Cage is the right choice to play Paul, and his family members are equally well cast. Michael Cera and Kate Berlant provide excellent stand-ins for the audience as marketers who want to try to spin Paul’s celebrity into something profitable and have remarkably different ideas for him about what that might look like (think a Sprite commercial versus a book on ants).

Dylan Gelula is particularly memorable as an assistant whose dreams of Paul are far from boring but who quickly comes to see that the real thing is nothing like what she imagined.

There are moments in this film where audiences will surely want to throw something at the screen, wishing that Paul would do something different when presented with a handful of options, and they’re just as likely to want to sympathize with him when he couldn’t have possibly done anything differently. That’s the intriguing and frustrating paradox of this film, one which leans into its weirdness and a sci-fi bent that’s generally appealing but also just peculiar.

It’s certainly a memorable experience, one most viewers would certainly never want to go through themselves.

Grade: B

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

Dream Scenario opens Friday, November 10th in select theaters.

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