This evaluate of Dream State of affairs was initially posted at the side of the movie’s premiere on the 2023 Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant. It has been up to date for the film’s theatrical launch.
From the second The Insufferable Weight of Large Expertise was introduced, it drew numerous pleasure by promising a meta film that absolutely embraced Nicolas Cage’s meme standing and over-the-top roles by letting him play himself. Cage isn’t repeating the very same trick with Dream State of affairs, the brand new film by Sick of Myself filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli, produced by Hereditary and Midsommar director Ari Aster and launched by A24. His character in Dream State of affairs isn’t named “Nicolas Cage.” However the film seems like an much more meta and poignant exploration of his standing as a web-based meme.
Greatest described because the humorous prequel to Nightmare on Elm Road we didn’t know we wanted, Dream State of affairs has Cage’s character, Paul Matthews, turning into well-known for causes utterly out of his management: He begins showing within the desires of individuals around the globe. Out of the blue, he’s well-known, however that fame comes with unparalleled judgment.
Borgli’s script feels tailored for Cage, who informed audiences after the movie’s world premiere on the Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant that he instantly linked with the story of viral fame. Ten years in the past, a YouTube montage of Nicolas Cage characters having meltdowns, titled “Nicolas Cage Dropping His Shit,” blew up on-line, with no context offered for any of the performances. Cage felt he had no management over their reception. For younger audiences particularly, Cage’s acclaimed performances and Greatest Actor Academy Award are much less essential than his meme standing, and the parade of smaller, stranger motion pictures the place he performs risky weirdos and over-the-top characters to the purpose of self-parody.
That is why his function in Dream State of affairs is each shocking and a incredible avenue for Cage to ship excellent character work. Paul Matthews is presumably probably the most boring man on the earth: a schlubby, balding, bearded, unpublished evolutionary biology professor who can’t maintain the eye of his college students, his daughters, or his spouse. Whereas hints of Cage’s extra outsized, exaggerated efficiency expertise floor in Paul, used for beautiful comedic functions, he’s principally only a bland, silent man who would go in any scenario with out being observed.
This makes it very unusual that so many individuals who don’t know him begin dreaming about him on the similar time. And he doesn’t even do something in these desires. He simply stands within the background or walks by the motion with a clean expression. That is true even when the dreamer is having a nightmare about being disemboweled by a demon. Paul simply stands apathetically on the sidelines — a hilarious sight that closely remembers the way in which Ari Aster contrasts extremity and mundanity, significantly in his 2023 oddity Beau Is Afraid.
Paul’s presence in different individuals’s desires turns him into an in a single day superstar, despite the fact that he’s actually achieved nothing to earn that fame. (Seemingly a touch upon so many different circumstances of viral fame.) Paul is mildly intrigued by his new notoriety, however all he actually cares about is utilizing the brand new doorways opening to him to satisfy his dream of getting printed. And even that objective is usually a spiteful try at revenge on a former colleague who printed some concepts Paul talked about in passing, however by no means acted on, years in the past. Cage is incredible at enjoying Paul’s pathetic makes an attempt at appearing the a part of a worldwide idol, the small delights he takes in turning into what he thinks individuals see him as. He’s a sympathetic character, however not one audiences are meant to really help.
Dream State of affairs’s imprecise, nebulous sort of fame offers Borgli an avenue to touch upon superstar and its worth with out taking a particular stand. He’s simply exploring the price of being extremely seen, being up for infinite interpretation by complete strangers, and being disconnected within the public eye from any precise real-world intentions or actions. As soon as Paul begins intentionally taking a extra energetic function in individuals’s desires, the script takes a Charlie Kaufman-esque method, enjoying with the concepts round so-called cancel tradition as a part of the world of on the spot fame. He additionally retains the visuals refreshing and fascinating, absolutely veering into dream-sequence horror, with enjoyably bizarre outcomes.
Dream State of affairs movie loses a few of its steam in its third act. Borgli’s script tries to stay separated from our actuality, attempting not to attract direct parallels between Paul’s experiences and actual superstar scandals. (1000’s of individuals dreaming about you murdering them isn’t precisely the identical as posting an offensive tweet.) However the references to buzzy phrases like “cancel tradition,” the mentions of Joe Rogan and Tucker Carlson, and the cavalcade of sudden but impeccably used cameos make it arduous to separate the movie’s absurdist world from our personal, even amid a third-act bit that feels straight out of South Park.
With Dream State of affairs, Borgli needs to the touch on hot-button points, then toss them apart earlier than they grow to be too sophisticated or actual. However the movie’s saving grace is the way in which it retains its messages about fame grounded within the experiences of an finally unremarkable, notably dumb protagonist. The ending doesn’t land, however there’s no denying the hilarious, poignant two-thirds that precede it.
Dream State of affairs is in theaters now.