Portraying a mild-mannered college professor and devoted family man who frequently appears in people’s nightmares, Nicolas Cage is accompanied by Julianne Nicholson and Michael Cera in Kristoffer Borgli’s movie.
Throughout his extensive 120-plus film career, Nicolas Cage has assumed numerous roles, but his portrayal in ‘Dream Scenario’ might just be his most uproarious yet.
With a receding hairline, a grey, unruly beard, outdated wire-framed glasses, and an array of unfashionable dad sweaters, Cage’s appearance as Paul Matthews, a tenured college professor, is a comically unimpressive sight. Strangely, he inexplicably starts appearing in the nightmares of random dreamers. Much to his dismay, his role in these dreams is that of a mere spectator, never intervening to save them from various calamities or scare off the monsters.
This marks the intriguing beginning of a gleefully dark social satire, sharply critiquing our click-driven world obsessed with instant celebrities and the fervor of cancel culture. It serves as a noteworthy English-language debut for Norwegian director-writer Kristoffer Borgli, who previously ventured into dark comedy with ‘Sick of Myself.’ In this production, Nicolas Cage assumes a character unlike any we’ve seen him play before, portraying a whiny victim brilliantly and offering a master class in reactive comedy.
Produced in collaboration with filmmaker Ari Aster, renowned for his expertise in angst-ridden surrealism with works like ‘Beau Is Afraid’ and ‘Midsommar,’ this A24 release is poised to capture attention well before its November 10th theatrical debut. Cage’s performance, in particular, is poised to generate significant buzz during the awards season.
As an evolutionary biology professor who frequently boasts about writing a groundbreaking science book, Paul, the unassuming family man, seems like the least likely person to invade the dreams of strangers. Initially, he doesn’t mind the newfound attention, although he’s irked by his passive role in these dreams, portraying him as an “inadequate loser.”
However, as his nocturnal cameos multiply, creating a dream epidemic with Millennials in social media marketing knocking on his door, including Michael Cera pitching Sprite product placements for his future dream appearances, things take a bizarre turn. A marketing assistant named Molly (superbly portrayed by Dylan Gelula) reveals that Paul’s presence in her dreams is far from innocent, leading to an awkward and cringe-worthy attempt to reenact those dreams in the waking hours.
As expected in a Nicolas Cage vehicle, Paul’s appearances gradually take a darker and more malevolent turn, reminiscent of the intensity seen in “Mandy,” with cinematographer Ben Loeb capturing all the over-the-top menace. This dark shift necessitates the involvement of trauma coaches, turning Paul into a social outcast. The cancel culture mentality extends to his already fragile relationship with his wife, Janet, who is somewhat underutilized and portrayed by Julianne Nicholson.
Speaking of dreams, Cage and Borgli form a comedic dream team, pushing each other to edgier comedic heights while keeping a keen focus on the film’s cautionary message. Borgli, who also serves as the film’s editor, maintains a lively and frenetic pace with clever jump cuts and bite-sized flashbacks. The Toronto-shot production finds a constant backdrop in the continuous snowfall outside every window.
However, your attention will primarily be captivated by Cage, who brilliantly portrays a self-pitying character struggling to regain some control over his chaotic life. His performance is pure comedy gold, and he fully immerses himself in the role, much like costume designer Natalie Bronfman’s dedication to outfitting him in a wardrobe straight out of the 90s, which Paul has seemingly been wearing for ages, down to his clunky academic shoes.
If Nicolas Cage hasn’t already found his way into our shared consciousness, “Dream Scenario” is sure to make that happen without a doubt.