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Dream Scenario

average rating is 4 out of 5


Hope Madden


Posted on:

Nov 29, 2023

Film Reviews
Dream Scenario
Directed by:
Kristoffer Borgli
Written by:
Kristoffer Borgli
Nicolas Cage, Julianne Nicholson

Why does the zebra look the way it does? Can anyone think of a benefit to that pattern? Those stripes help zebras blend into the group, go unnoticed. And when no one notices you, you’re safe.


But wouldn’t everyone rather feel special?


Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) would. Too bad there is nothing particularly special about him. He’s a tenured professor, but not a researcher. He wants to write a book, just hasn’t actually written anything yet. And then, somehow, suddenly, everyone is dreaming about him.


Well, the dream is not about Paul, per se. But there he is, anyway, standing there and not participating.

Writer/director Kristoffer Borgli (Sick of Myself) once again analyzes and satirizes the cultural obsession with attention. But by moving the focus to a middle-aged, relatively ordinary man, Borgli removes the wag of the finger toward the young and their vacuous nature. Instead, Dream Scenario becomes an unnervingly accurate portrayal of our whole cultural attention span.


This is absurdist horror comedy at its best, leaning toward Charlie Kaufman’s take on humanity. That, of course, makes Cage an apt choice for the lead. Cage delivered two magnificent comedic performances in the Kaufman-penned Adaptation, garnering an Oscar nomination. In that film he played a neurotic intellectual and an oblivious dufus. In a way, he does that here, too.


Every half dozen films or so, Nic Cage reminds us of his singular talent. Pig (2021) again proved his humbling dramatic power. Dream Scenario (like Adaptation) recalls his nimble comedic skill.


Equally nimble is Borgli’s writing, coloring the all-too-real horror of celebrity with running jokes about ants, zebras and the Talking Heads. None of the richness in the script is lost on Cage or a game ensemble –including Julianne Nicholson, Michael Cera and Tim Meadows – mainly playing it straight so Cage can melt down gloriously.


The director slides so easily through tonal shifts that even one sincere, romantic moment feels at home. As does the film’s theme: none of this is real.

About the Film Critic
Hope Madden
Hope Madden
Theatrical Release
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