Nicolas Cage. What do we do with him? Here’s an answer for you. We treasure him. In truth, we don’t deserve Nic Cage. Precious few performers exist who bring such a sense of manic versatility to each and every role. Still, fewer can be as unapologetically themselves as he manages each time he steps in front of a camera. Whether playing Count Dracula, Benjamin Gates, or even a mute figure trapped in Willy’s Wonderland … he’s always a joy to watch. This week, the star toplines Dream Scenario, yet another strange, high-concept drama that is hard to discuss. Is this dream a delight and a joy? Or is this a nightmare? Read on. 

Dream Scenario follows Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) as he wakes up to discover a strange and uncomfortable fact. It seems people around the world are dreaming about him. Yep, it is as weird as it sounds. Unfortunately, though, due to the nature of the plot, that’s about all the synopsis I can give. Anything beyond this inches dangerously close to spoiler territory. Julianne Nicholson, Tim Meadows, Dylan Baker and Star Slade co-star in the movie. Kristoffer Borgli directs Dream Scenario from his own script. 

Nicolas Cage looks pensive as he wears a medieval gauntlet on his hand in the movie Dream Scenario.

First and foremost, it hardly needs reiterating, but we must scream from the rooftops that Nicolas Cage remains a national treasure. As an actor, he’s never shown any issue with hamming it up, camping it up, or simply bringing the strangest, most delightful performance he has in his arsenal. It is likely due to Cage that I had as much fun with Dream Scenario as I did. 

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When reflecting on this film, Nicolas Cage feels like the only actor capable of playing Paul Matthews. Cage straddles this challenging material with ease. Paul needs to be an everyman capable of blending into the world and a figure wild enough to step straight out of a dream. This is Nic Cage. He’s one of the few performers who can drift from serious to wildman … and it feels completely natural. 

That said, Dream Scenario is not an easy viewing. This wildly complex look at contemporary culture fluctuates wildly in pace and tone. This alone makes it almost impossible to write about as a critic. Thanks to the “Nicolas Cage” of it all, there are moments that feel laugh-out-loud funny. The performer is acting for the cheap seats. However, this is a dark and serious script. There are moments where it feels almost wrong to be laughing. Is it supposed to be this funny? When all is said and done, though, it is Nicolas Cage we unite behind, and as film viewers, we know what we’re in for when he’s the top-billed performer. Kooky is the name of the game. 

Nicolas Cage shouts in frustration in Dream Scenario.

Ultimately, yours truly’s biggest struggle with the movie comes squarely into spoiler territory. As the film reaches its third act, it seems to struggle with finding an easy ending. In fact, the film finds not just one ending but multiple. My mind was completely blown when the story stumbled across its first “ending.” Even the second made sense. However, with each passing scene beyond this, the story’s impact is unforgivably dulled.

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Dream Scenario‘s struggle to bring that final act to a close hangs heavily over the plot. The decision doesn’t simply alter the story’s power. It holds tonal and pacing implications as well. In Dream Scenario, writer and director Borgli creates a hard-hitting and incredibly savvy script. The overarching power of the movie’s message gradually disappears as the movie begins to feel impossibly long. As the final act plays out, the resulting structure feels like a mediocre studio rewrite. Things would be far better (albeit a bit darker) without the last 20 minutes. 

All in all, Dream Scenario is a fascinating and courageous film. This dark comedy jumps into some strange and challenging subject matter with no fear and largely succeeds. The movie only hits a stumbling block in the final act. It’s more frustrating than anything else. It brings a mind-blowingly brilliant film down to earth. Do with that what you will. Can you handle the Nicolas Cage of it all and just enjoy it?  

Dream Scenario is now playing in theaters around the country

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Kimberly Pierce
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