November 10th, 2023
MOVIE: DREAM SCENARIO
STARRING: NICOLAS CAGE, JULIANNE NICHOLSON, TIM MEADOWS, DYLAN BAKER, DYLAN GELULA
DIRECTED BY: KRISTOFFER BORGLI
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
There is a psychological component to the films of director Kristoffer Borgli. His two recent works, Sick of Myself and now Dream Scenario, both dig into the minds of humans. Whether it be the attention we seek or being turned into a pariah for the attention we never asked for. This is an inspection of why people are the way we are. I’m not sure an answer has been fully discovered but Borgli’s work continues to fascinate, diving deeper and deeper into places we dare not go. Dream Scenario goes directly into the pleasure senses, the subconscious, and the darkest areas of our minds. It’s all channeled through the existence of a bland college professor played by Nicolas Cage.
Paul Matthews (an amazing Cage performance) is a tenured professor who teaches biology and the living patterns of animals. He’s bald, has old glasses, often wears sweaters, and rarely sticks up for himself. Some might call him a pushover. One morning at breakfast, his daughter tells him about how she had an odd dream about him, how he stood by as she was nearly pelted by falling debris from the sky. His daughter is having this dream…okay, but when he gets to class he hears from a student about how he was in their dream, and then another, and another and another. Like a subconscious virus, Paul Matthews is showing up in everyone’s dreams and overnight he becomes a celebrity of sorts. But is it good to be in the heads of people all over the world? That’s the scenario.
On many facets, Dream Scenario is entirely a Borgli project, written and directed by a creative mind. What helps the story overcome its initial concept is the work of the legendary actor at the stature of Nicolas Cage. It’s not quite as great as his performance in Pig, but the Oscar-winner is tapping into his eccentric side, reminiscent of his work on Matchstick Men. His character is complex. Not a bad person or an entirely good man, but just a man, and someone who never asked for this kind of attention. Through the vessel of Cage, Borgli balances the comedy and the drama, where the actors’ look and presence lift the material like a two-ton boulder.
His Paul Matthews is someone you waver on, wondering if we can root for him, a person worthy of his instant fame, or an example of needing to be careful what you wish for. His wife Janet (Julianne Nicholson) is content with their happy home but she would like Paul to have more confidence in himself. With the dreams comes a new man, followed by a changing of personality, and when the dreams turn to nightmares, it begins to put his entire family at risk. Lessons may be learned, but one of the major flaws with Dream Scenario is that Borgli does not entirely give us an answer on things, an answer that feels owed to the viewer.
One thing is for sure, Dream Scenario is one of the most original and creative films of 2023, highlighting the genius of Kristoffer Borgli and the excellence of Nicolas Cage. It overshadows the meta-text in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and also refreshes Cage’s ability to flex his mainstream accessibility. This is a role he was born to play. Were the role in the service of someone like Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell it would be too goofy. Instead, we get to let Nicolas Cage crawl around inside our heads and deliver a movie that we once would dream of. Now it’s a reality.
DREAM SCENARIO IS PLAYING IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY NOVEMBER 17TH, 2023.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady