by Jef Burnham
Available May 17th, 2011 on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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Daydream Nation is yet another in a seemingly endless stream of unbearably quirky indie flicks to annoy those audiences futilely seeking respite from Hollywood’s equally monotonous fare. Only, in place of the amusing quirks that characterize the people and places of other such films, Daydream Nation opts for a darker variety. To this end, writer/director Mike Goldbach employs drug abuse, a serial killer in a white suit, and an eternal industrial fire on the outskirts of town that forces the inhabitants to don gas masks as they go about their business.
Kat Dennings (Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist) plays Caroline, a predictably well-read seventeen-year-old who cites Monica Lewinsky as the historical figure she most admires. After instigating an affair with a handsome teacher (Josh Lucas, American Psycho), Caroline sleeps with troubled local teen Thurston (Reece Thompson, Dreamcatcher), marking the beginning of a love triangle in which it is exceedingly difficult to invest. The reason for this is that Caroline is incredibly difficult to like, while Thurston is as interesting and sweet a character as you could hope to find. In fact, he’s by far the most interesting of all Goldbach’s characters.
So why follow Caroline? Because it’s hip to have a teenage girl for one’s central character maybe. Just as it’s hip to revel in one’s own quirkiness until you’ve either alienated your audience or fooled them into thinking your film is deep. And what’s worse is that, throughout this entire arduous picture, the narration from Caroline simply will not stop, reflecting perhaps an inability on Goldbach’s part to show, not tell.
Now, try though I might, there is little I can say for the film in way of positive commentary. The performances are solid enough, especially from Thompson and co-star Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day). And the film does boast some gorgeous cinematography from Jon Joffin (The X-Files). Special features are limited to a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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