'Dream Scenario' Delivers an Interesting, Surreal Film From A24

Ulises Duenas


A24 has been a consistent source of interesting movies. Even if they don’t always land, you can at least count on something unique. Dream Scenario is no different, and it offers one the most interesting portrayals of how dreams work and a story that manages to remain engaging despite small stumbles.


Nicolas Cage stars as Paul Mathews, a boring family man and a professor of evolutionary biology. Paul learns that some of the people in his life have started having dreams in which he randomly appears and just meanders around. This phenomenon snowballs to the point where thousands of people are talking about Paul being in their dreams on social media. The effect this has on him is interesting because instead of being concerned or wondering why it's happening, he just enjoys his newfound fame since it’s the first time in his life that he feels special.



The pacing in the first half of the movie is excellent and has a good sense of comedic timing. I’m not a fan of Cage when he goes over-the-top, but his performance here is perfect for the character of Paul. The mundanity of reality clashing with the absurdity of the film’s dream sequences makes for a great mix of tones. His life is so boring that you want to root for Paul to finally feel some joy or excitement in life, and the film takes that feeling and throws it through a loop.


After Paul soaks in the strange adulation from strangers, things take a turn. People’s dreams about him turn into nightmares where he begins to brutally murder people. The depiction of those nightmares feels accurate compared with real dreams; they’re not overly absurd and the imagery is disjointed and confusing when presented to the viewer. When people start to turn on Paul, the tone of the film changes and scenes start to have more tension. It resembles the movie Jacob’s Ladder, as Paul becomes a prisoner of his fame and a pariah. 



While Nicolas Cage stands out, other characters in the film don’t. That’s not to say there aren’t other great performances -- almost every actor does a great job. The problem is that so much of the movie is played straight, so even if someone does a great job of portraying a boring, upper-middle-class individual, it just doesn’t feel special. 


While the pacing slows down the second half of the movie, it still does a good job of wrapping things up without things getting weird or dark. Since this is an A24 movie, I was expecting Paul to end up dead or in some kind of torturous dream prison, but thankfully the ending doesn’t do that. Dream Scenario ends up as a memorable film that does a surprisingly good job of mixing comedy, drama, and horror elements. 


Author Bio:

Ulises Duenas is a senior writer and film critic at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


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