TIFF 2023: The Nicolas Cageaissance Continues with Wonderfully Awkward 'Dream Scenario' Directed by Kristoffer Borgli
Starring Nicolas Cage, Julianne Nicholson, Michael Cera, Lily Bird, Jessica Clement, Dylan Gelula
Published Sep 14, 2023In the '90s, Nicolas Cage was truly something to behold — the most intense eye acting with line deliveries that only he could pull off. While many, including me, genuinely appreciated Cage at his most unhinged, he became a bit of a punchline in the film world.
This recent phase of his career, though, might rival '90s Cage as my favourite. Movies like Pig, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Renfield, Color Out of Space and even Butcher's Crossing show Cage simply enjoying being an actor — and we can now add Dream Scenario to that list.
A truly bizarre premise, Dream Scenario envisions a world where a dream epidemic has taken over with Cage's Paul Matthews at the centre. At first, Paul appears in people's dreams without much fanfare. He casually saunters into the sub-conscious neither helping nor contributing to the dream — he's merely just there. Slowly but surely, people trade notes and realize they are all dreaming of the same man. Eventually, Paul becomes an internet sensation, but as his presence in these dreams goes from mundane to nightmarish, his actual waking life is turned upside down.
Dream Scenario evades any particular genre, straddling the sensibilities of horror, comedy and drama, while also being a metaphysical character study in banality and a satirical exploration of today's media cycle. This film, written and directed by Kristoffer Borgli, somehow becomes everything without sacrificing anything: it's hilarious, pensive, loving, terrifying and awkward. So, so awkward.
For all the dramatic flourishes Cage has become famous for, Dream Scenario requires him to be incredibly normal. This contrast comes to a head in one of the most delightfully graceless scenes put to film between Cage and Dylan Gelula as Molly, an employee of a small online media marketing firm. Without spoiling anything, Cage, Gelula and Borgli ratchet up the embarrassment to a degree of severe comedy and vulnerable humanity.
Perhaps fittingly, given the subject matter, Dream Scenario is difficult to describe, especially without divulging the entire movie. But one thing is for certain, Cage puts forth yet another irresistible performance that will put any remaining haters on notice.
The 2023 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 7 to 17. Find information about screenings and tickets at the festival's website. (VVS Films)