Dream Scenario

Kate Young
13th Dec 2023

What is it about fame that has so many people craving the limelight? Is it the lure of money, popularity, adoration, devotion; it seems anyone these days can be famous. One of Life's most famous quotes is "In the future everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame" I'm guessing those people never calculated social media eradicating that 15 mins for 15 secs. With platforms like Instagram and TikTok a 30 sec video can turn a nobody into a household name within moments. But it’s a fine line that one must tread as the blurred world between famous and infamous can just as quickly be crossed. As loyal as fans can be with adoration they can also be just as unforgiving. One post is one man's triumph where another mans can be his downfall.

In Dream Scenario Nicholas Cage plays Paul Matthews, an average middle-aged professor, who's socially awkward demeaner, receding hairline and conservative dress sense is the furthest image associated with the coolness that is Cage himself. He spends his days teaching behavioural science to absent-minded college kids while aspiring to get a book published, the only problem being it hasn’t been written yet.

When a former colleague beats him to the post and refuses to give Paul the accreditation he seeks, he becomes fed up with feeling like he's constantly being overlooked by the world, he just wants to be seen... seen by his kids as the cool dad, sexually desired by his wife, and finally gaining the respect from both his students and his peers.

Then suddenly everything changes, an unexplained phenomenon begins to happen when Paul starts showing up in peoples dreams. Suddenly everyone knows who he is, and all are declaring "I saw you in my dream".

It begins with his daughter Sophie, who recounts the details of her sitting at a table and chair, poolside at the family home, her father is raking the leaves nearby, when suddenly, the glass top of the table shatters and objects start hurtling from the sky into the pool, she begins ascending, floating up into the sky screaming for help and Paul, well Paul just continues to rake the leaves.

Soon more people begin to come forward with their Paul-ism's. This includes many of his students who one by one start rattling off the details.

There's a young man who's being hunted in the forest by a tall man covered in blood, a female student who gets attacked by a crocodile, another student dreams that an earthquake destroys the college, even an ex- girlfriend relays the dream in which her now husband is having a heart attack and Paul is just there... watching.

In all the dreams he does nothing to help but just observes.While these are just visions in people’s minds, Paul is embarrassed by the fact that he never steps in to help.

As Paul's fame rises so does his opportunities - from TV appearances to plug products such as Sprite (even though he's never tasted the drink) - when all he wants is to be working on his book, but no one is interested in who Paul is rather, simply Paul as a product to be consumed.

The film takes a very dark turn, and I won't give too much away but let's just say one of the most hilarious and equally cringe worthy sex scenes ever to be filmed, catapults the trajectory of Paul's life off course, resulting in a nightmarish new reality.

Nicholas Cage is sublime in the role of Paul Matthews and in my opinion is up there with some of his greatest (Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Mandy). This role was not only written for him but could just as easily be inspired by him. Cage recalls a few years ago being subjected to similar scrutiny that his character Paul goes through, having experienced the ugly side of fandom himself. One morning Cage awoke to find his life's work reduced to a mere meme. Feeling helpless and humiliated, he was left with the realisation just how little control both physically and legally he had over his own image. If "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" was Cage's chance to one up the meme makers by playing a heightened version of himselfthen Dream Scenario was a cathodic way to playout his own lived experience. Cage brings such authenticity to the role that even this sci-fi fable keeps a firm foothold in reality.

Dream Scenario feels like it could easily be a Black Mirror episode especially when it takes a swift commercial break (literally) into the Sci-fi realm of "Dream-influences". As we embark on this journey with Paul, we observe his life as it goes from odd, to fascinating to tragic end as he's left to deal everyone's perceived notions of him. The film showcases a side to fame that we rarely get to see or even contemplate; just how one's life can be altered by our perception of who we think they are. 

Overall the film was entertaining and visually stunning, many of the dream sequences will have you pinching yourself  just to check if you're awake. Writer and Director Kristoffer Borgli offers a unique observation about fame in the 21st century, cancel culture and consumerism. With its off-beat sense of humour combined with its surreal elements of horror, a sensational supportive cast (Michael Cera plays all to convincingly a smarmy publicity agent and Dylan Gelula is charming as Paul's young seductress), Ari Asta (Hereditary, Midsommar, Beau is Afraid) as producer and a Dave Burns "Stop Making Sense" Suit there will be no shunning here.