Dream Scenario, the surreal fantasy/horror film where Nicolas Cage manages to achieve peak Nicolas Cage-ness without even being awake. The film plunges us into a delicious, sleep-deprived madness that could only be born from the minds of writer/director Kristoffer Borgli and producer Ari Aster. If you thought you had strange dreams, wait until you’re sharing them with millions of strangers and Nicolas Cage.
Paul Matthews, played by Cage, is your quintessential underachiever — a professor who’s really good at racking up citations in the annals of obscurity. He’s the kind of guy who’d be thrilled to go viral for a day, just so he could tell his kids he was cool once. But fate, that capricious minx, has other plans. Millions of people around the globe start dreaming about him. Suddenly, he’s not just Paul Matthews, obscure professor; he’s Paul Matthews, the nocturnal sensation. It’s like the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Nicolas Cage had a baby, and that baby visits you in your dreams. But remember, not all dreams are sweet; some are downright nightmarish.
Nicolas Cage is flanked by a merry band of co-stars, each more eclectic than the last. Julianne Nicholson, who plays Janet, Paul’s long-suffering wife, seems constantly on the verge of asking why she didn’t dream of George Clooney instead. Michael Cera is Trent, the head of a viral marketing firm who probably has charts and graphs explaining the dream demographics. You know, the stuff of real dreams. Tim Meadows is Brett, the dean of Paul’s college, who looks perpetually confused, pondering the academic merits of dream appearances. Dylan Gelula and Dylan Baker round out the cast, bringing their own flavors of whimsy and wonder.
Now, one might draw comparisons to “Inception,” where dreams are a labyrinthine playground of the mind. But, oh no, “Dream Scenario” is far too cheeky for that. It’s more like “Being John Malkovich” met “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” in a bar, and after a few drinks, they decided to adopt a baby named “The Truman Show.” The film pokes fun at our modern celebrity culture, where going viral can be both a blessing and a curse, like winning the lottery but then immediately being attacked by seagulls.
Kudos must go to Ari Aster, the producer with a penchant for the macabre, best known for “Hereditary” and “Midsommar.” Here, he’s reined in the horror but amped up the absurdity. And Kristoffer Borgli navigates us through this dream world with the finesse of a sleepwalker on a tightrope.
Let’s not forget that the film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and is poised for a November release. A24, the studio that knows its audience probably better than they know themselves, is backing the project. A24 films are the cinematic equivalent of that weird kid in school who sat in the back of the class, drawing surreal sketches in his notebook but now probably earns six figures as a graphic designer. They’re strange, captivating, and you can’t help but look.
In the end, “Dream Scenario” does more than tickle your funny bone; it catapults you into a world where the line between reality and dream is as blurry as your vision when you wake up at 3 a.m. to jot down your own bizarre dreams, only to realize you’ve written, “Nicolas Cage was there, and it was awesome.” This film is not just a dream come true; it’s a dream you didn’t even know you had. So, grab your PJs and a tub of popcorn because this November, the Sandman’s got nothing on Nicolas Cage.