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Dream Scenario

Directed by Kristoffer Borgli
Produced by Jacob Jaffke, Lars Knudsen, Ari Aster, and Tyler Campellone
Written by Kristoffer Borgli
With: Lily Bird, Nicolas Cage, Julianne Nicholson, Michael Cera, Tim Meadows, Dylan Gelula, Dylan Baker, Kate Berlant, Lily Bird, and Jessica Clement
Cinematography: Benjamin Loeb
Editing: Kristoffer Borgli
Music: Owen Pallett
Runtime: 102 min
Release Date: 22 November 2023
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color: Color

Nicolas Cage is in excellent form, teaming up with Norwegen writer/director Kristoffer Borgli (Sick of Myself) for this darkly comic piece of not-so-magical-realism. Cage plays a schlubby, mild-mannered, and thoroughly unexceptional biology professor named Paul Matthews, who inexplicably starts to show up in people's dreams. At first, he's just an awkward presence, not lifting a finger to help the various dreamers—which include his daughter, his students, and soon total strangers—when they're engaged in nightmares. The goofy, random, inexplicable phenomenon makes him a perfect involuntary celebrity for our current era. But when Paul's appearances in the collective dreaming start to become less passive and more violent, his life is turned upside down.

Cage is the ideal actor for this story since he's as famous these days for being Nicolas Cage as he is for his stellar acting work. Even if you've never seen a single Nick Cage film, you probably know him from countless memes that pop up in your social media feeds the way Paul pops up in people's dreams. And Cage can be just as convincing and compelling playing an unattractive, unassertive nebish as he can in one of his more signature manic roles. Borgli’s script takes subtle but sharp-eyed aim at our current culture regarding what we get excited by, what we fear, and how we react to both stimuli. The premise taps into the hilarious and nearly universal experience of feeling a certain way about someone—angry, turned on, etc—for something they did in one of our dreams rather than in real life. The film uses Paul's bizarre predicament to comment on everything from our obsession with "monetization" to "cancel culture" to valuing perception over reality to the more mundane concerns of holding a family together under times of great stress. 

While Dream Scenario has nothing new or profound to say about the shallow, fickle nature of contemporary society, it provides the viewer with the visceral sensation of going through the emotional rollercoaster of its protagonist. I was shocked at how intense and discomforting the experience of just sitting and watching this movie was. I consider it quite an achievement for any film these days, especially a quirky one like this with such a fantasy premise, to effectively immerse me this deeply in a character's point of view. It's also a feat to make such an unpleasant movie so thoroughly enjoyable!

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Kristoffer Borgli's darkly comic piece of not-so-magical-realism features Nicolas Cage in excellent form as a nobody who achieves instant fame when he starts to randomly appear in people's dreams.