Nicolas Cage Haunts Our Sleep in the Smart Sci-Fi Film Dream Scenario

Nicolas Cage Haunts Our Sleep in the Smart Sci-Fi Film Dream Scenario

Dream Scenario, the new film from writer/director Kristoffer Borgli, starts with a terrible yet tantalizing premise: what if millions of people all over the world started dreaming about one person? And not some famous celebrity. Just some normal professor at a small college. Why is this happening? How is it happening? And what does it mean for a once-invisible man to suddenly become the most famous person on the planet?

The man in question is Paul, an unassuming, chubby, bald professor played by Nicolas Cage. Paul is the kind of guy who doesn’t appreciate just how nice his simple life actually is. So, once he starts to gain fame, he embraces it. In the age of social media, Paul becomes very famous, very fast, which is when Dream Scenario really kicks in.

Borgli takes that smart, simple idea and continues to evolve it over the course of the movie, mostly as a commentary on modern society. The way we build up people to be famous and tear them down just as quickly. Because, without ruining too much, Paul’s idealized version of fame, one where he’s using it to get everything he’s ever wanted in life, doesn’t last too long. Things turn bad even faster than they turned good and he has to deal with a whole new type of attention even though he himself has nothing to do with it.

Blending reality with dreams, humor with horror, and awkwardness with elation, Dream Scenario is a tonal master class. Lots of that is Borgli’s script, which stays very objective in terms of how it treats Paul while bouncing between genres, as well as his direction, which always keeps things very grounded and real. But also it’s Nicolas Cage, who is as good as ever in the film. And trust us, we know that’s saying a lot. But Paul is one of his most flawed and fascinating characters yet, helping nail that tonal mishmash with his equally twisted feelings.

Those feelings then carry over to the audience. We see both sides of this story, one where it’s nice to be adored, but also scary to be vilified. And at the heart of it is the fact Paul didn’t actually do anything. His role in people’s dreams is completely random and out of his control. Or is it? Borgli lets you consider it all.

We’re also left to wonder about responsibility. Paul and his family are forced to deal with the consequences of fame without ever asking for them. However, once he does embrace it, you question the decision-making. In fact, you question a lot of things. That’s the genius of Dream Scenario. On the surface, it feels like a, ahem, “dream scenario” itself. Who wouldn’t want to be that famous with absolutely no effort? Money, fame, success, completely out of nowhere? Sounds great. Only, in Borgli’s hands, we see that nothing worth having comes easy and when it does, it should be handled with caution. There’s always a price to pay.

In addition to Cage, the always dynamic Julianne Nicholson adds to our feelings on Paul’s dilemma. She plays Janet, his confused, conflicted wife who, like the audience, does her best to stay neutral and supportive of Paul. We all realize that he had nothing to do with this. But as things change, so do Janet’s feelings—and maybe our own, too, leading to an ending that’s much less clear than the mostly straightforward bulk of the movie, but certainly befitting of a movie this layered.

Dream Scenario is a movie that will draw people in with its catchy, sci-fi premise, and then get people to think about themselves, their lives, and the world we live in. Along the way, it’ll make you laugh, make you cringe, make you think, and once again make you realize, damn, that Nicolas Cage is amazing, isn’t he?

Dream Scenario had its U.S. premiere this week at Fantastic Fest 2023. It opens in limited release on November 10, before expanding November 22.

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