November 13, 2023

GENRE | Nicolas Cage Sleeps Off A 'Dream Scenario' x TIFF 2023

"I wish this was real."
Nicolas Cage Kristoffer Borgli | Dream Scenario A24
Toronto International Film Festival
Dream Scenario is a hilarious satire of cancel culture starring Nicolas Cage as an otherwise forgettable professor who starts inexplicably showing up in strangers' dreams (imagine A Nightmare on Elm Street as a comedy). Written and directed by Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli and produced by Ari Aster, where the surreal fantasy film goes makes for a brutal takedown of our contemporary society, never failing to illicit truly tense comedic horror.

Cage's balding Paul stands in superbly as the unremarkable middle-aged everyman American living in Anytown, USA. When he slowly becomes world famous for first showing up as a background character in other people's dreams, he enjoys his momentary superstardom before his image becomes twisted as a horror figure of nightmares, leading to trauma and hatred from his once adoring public. Where this dream concept goes in terms of mocking our influencer culture and consumerist capitalist urges says a lot about the state of how we choose to manifest our deepest fears and desires.

A tender Julianne Nicholson does fine work as Cage's supportive yet skeptical wife. She grounds the high-concept premise as their marriage stands in for an idealized yet underappreciated relationship many take for granted. As Paul starts to crumble under the scrutiny of the public eye, Nicholson provides a starkly even-handed perspective on his family life threatened by the craziness of his viral internet fame. Michael Cera also appears as a hip branding guru promising to monetize these dreams.

Borgli is fairly savage in his sidesplitting satirical humour. Dream Scenario could have used subtlety or slightly removed itself from its direct mockery of contemporary culture wars to maximize its comedy. However, it's squarely aimed at society's rush to judgment and our desperation for fame and recognition. There's a clear message about the underrated perks of anonymity and living a quietly private life.

Dream Scenario premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Platform program.

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