Something tells me writer/director Mike Goldbach has a little bit of an obsession with Sonic Youth. The film is called Daydream Nation, a main character is named Thurston and there is a song from the band in the first fifteen minutes of the film. If it’s not an obsession, it’s a heck of a coincidence in a film about a high school student involving in an off-kilter love triangle.
Caroline Wexler (Kat Dennings) moves to a small town with her windowed father. She is utterly bored at her new school and hated by just about everyone. With nothing else to do she decides to seduce her attractive teacher, Barry Anderson (Josh Lucas). At the same time Thurtston (Reece Thompson), the stoner, starts to get a crush on her as well. All while this is going on a serial killer is stalking the teens of the town.
Told from the point of view of Caroline, complete with voice over, the story unfolds in a non-linear fashion as Caroline jumps from one character’s story to another. As the film progresses the strangeness builds and builds to its ultimate climax. Nation has a lot of potential as a film, but falls short in several ways.
The first is Caroline. Many times she comes off as very unlikable. It makes it hard to follow her story, care about the decisions she makes or the consequences she faces from them because of this one character trait given to her. It’s a recurring theme as most of the characters are one-note, and fall into the unlikable or pathetic category. It leaves the film awkward for large portions despite its rather top notch appearance and some unexpectedly good acting.
Though, Daydream Nation is very well made with a great cinematic style and wonderful acting across the board. Denning, while playing an annoying character, does a really good job of carrying this film and holding it all together as best she can. The problem is that style can only get you so far, substance is where it counts. It ends up being more wasted potential from a relative newcomer than an opening salvo of brilliance.
Daydream Nation is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Sound with English and Spanish subtitles. This is a good-looking film. It’s a great transfer and sounds good too. There is a Behind the Scenes piece that runs around seven minutes and is a typical making-of piece. It does give you some insight as to the characters thoughts on the film.
As a first film, Daydream Nation is a solid production and director Mike Goldbach is definitely a new talent to watch. However, as an off the wall teen coming of age film, it is still quite a flawed film. Mild recommendation.
Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Daydream Nation. Written and directed by: Mike Goldbach. Starring: Kat Dennings, Reece Thompson, Andie MacDowell and Josh Lucas. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated R for drug an alcohol use, sexual content, language and some violent images-all involving teens. Released on Blu-ray: April 5, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.