In DREAM SCENARIO (2023), a mild-mannered man discovers he is appearing in other people’s dreams, with escalating consequences. This Charlie Kaufman-style concept is almost perfectly rendered, particularly with Nicholas Cage in the lead, though it reaches so far conceptually in the third act that the ending may not be satisfying for some. I liked it a lot but wished the film had stayed focused and that I had loved it.
Paul Matthews (Cage) is a college professor going through a midlife crisis. He doesn’t feel special. He wishes he could be noticed. When people in his life and then random strangers start telling him that he is appearing in their dreams, he gains a bizarre celebrity. But when the dreams become nightmares, he learns the price of fame.
Cage is terrific in this movie, playing the socially awkward, innocent dork to a tee. The way it takes the premise seriously is again reminiscent of Charlie Kaufman’s best work. The concept had me from the get-go, loaded with so many possibilities, and they do it justice. It’s a lot of fun, even when we suffer along with the hapless Paul.
The only problem for me was in the third act, the movie starts to pile up ideas to an extent the story loses its focus, and the filmmaker appeared far more interested in the metaphor for fame and following that through instead of staying focused on Paul’s character arc. As a result, Paul’s story, which was heading for one hell of a cathartic positive ending and redemption by his finally discovering his happiness and agency, falls flat, the ending feeling diffused and for me even a little frustrating even if there is a touching moment.
Despite the ending, I thought DREAM SCENARIO was a ton of fun and recommend it. It’s always a beautiful thing to discover a movie that takes chances with a crazy concept, takes that concept seriously, and runs with it.