Today: April 15, 2024

Dream Scenario

For over 100 years, storytellers have used the film medium to take viewers on journeys through the magic of cinema. Considering the immense length of the format’s history, original visions are getting fewer and further between – we live in a world where cinematic offerings are becoming more and more franchise-based, with nostalgia perhaps the key selling point for a box office smash. And yet, sometimes a film will come along so distinctive in its originality and unique in its premise that it reminds us there are still stories to be told. It just so happens that this one features a scene in which Nicolas Cage nervously farts and prematurely ejaculates.

Kristoffer Borgli’s Dream Scenario – co-produced by Ari Aster and distributed by A24 – tells the story of Paul Matthews (Cage), a mild-mannered biology professor who becomes a global phenomenon when he mysteriously begins appearing in the dreams of others. As the dreams become nightmares, Paul becomes a pariah and his newfound fame morphs into a tragic allegory for society’s fleeting obsessions. 

Dream Scenario certainly has A24 all over it – it’s dark, strange, and often nightmarish (unsurprisingly) in its delivery. But this is impeccably balanced with the film’s twisted sense of humour. The film has some genuinely hilarious moments, and Cage brings everything he has to the role. He has seldom been better. His Paul Matthews is one of his best characters in his stacked filmography, and another of many reminders that given the right material Nicolas Cage can still impress and remind us why he’s an Academy Award winner. The supporting cast are excellent, too – Julianne Nicholson is perfect as Paul’s wife Janet who also struggles with her husband’s fame.

What I didn’t expect from Dream Scenario – considering how funny the premise, and indeed the first act is – is how sad the story gets. The film transforms masterfully from comedy to tragedy as this bizarre situation takes everything from Paul. The screenplay, by director Borgli, is a surprisingly poignant fable of the effects of the spotlight on a normal man – taken to the extremes with the fascinating premise. Special mention should also go to how gorgeously the film is shot, and the stunning editing that takes us into the fractured dreams – and nightmares – of everyone around Paul.

Dream Scenario is a unique and wonderful piece of work that is destined for cult status, with one of Nicolas Cage’s finest performances in his entire career.

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