(director/writer: Kristoffer Borgli; cinematographer: Benjamin Loeb; editor: Kristoffer Borgli; music: Owen Pallett; cast: Nicolas Cage (Paul Matthews), Lili Bird (Sophie Matthews), Julianne Nicholson (Janet Matthews), Jessica Clement (Hannah Matthews), Star Slade (Greta), David Klein (Andy), Kaled Horn (Miles), Liz Adjei (Avery), Michael Cera (Trent), Paula Boudreau (Sheila), Tim Meadows (Brett), Dylan Baker (Richard), Dylan Gelula (Molly); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ari Aster, Lars Knudsen, Nicolas Cage, Tyler Campellone, Jacob Jaffke; A24; 2023)
“This surreal black comedy is one of the better Nicolas Cage films.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This surreal black comedy is one of the better Nicolas Cage films. Cage has appeared in over 100 films. In this one, he gives a pleasing uncharacteristic low-key performance instead of his usual over-the-top one.
It’s directed in a dream-like way and carefully edited by Kristoffer Borgli (“Sick of Myself”/”DRIB”), the Norwegian filmmaker who is directing his first film in English.
Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) is a tenured milquetoast evolutionary biology professor at a small college, in a small town. In a weird dream scenario, Paul starts to appear in people’s dreams. This gets people to notice the nondescript character like they never did before. He reaches a celebrity status when he’s interviewed about this strange occurrence on TV in New York, and becomes comfortable accepting these life changes.
Paul has a supportive wife, Janet (Julianne Nicholson), and two daughters (Lily Bird and Jessica Clement) he dearly loves.
No reason is given why he suddenly appears in the dreams of strangers but not in the dreams of his wife.
Things are fine at first with his life changes, but things suddenly turn against him after he’s talked into promoting himself on a social media marketing site run by millennials that’s called “Thoughts.”
When a young woman named Molly (Dylan Gelula), an assistant at the “Thoughts” marketing firm, has a dream sex scene with Paul, this changes how the public views him. When his dreams become violent, he has the word “loser” spray-painted on his car and his college dean (Tim Meadows) puts him on a forced leave.
The dark satire shows what can happen to someone in today’s cancel culture world when they have a fall-out on social media and their 15 minutes of fame turn rotten.
It played at the Toronto International Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 9/28/2023 GRADE: B