For every limitation that exists IRL, there’s an equal realm of wild possibilities that can be found in our dreams: from trippy unicorns, to poker tables people by card-dealing aliens, to, well, Nicolas Cage. That’s the premise of Kristoffer Borgli’s (Sick of Myself) offbeat, dark comedy that has Cage haunting the dreams of the entire planet.
Cage plays Paul Matthews, an unremarkable college professor with unrealised ambitions of publishing a paper on evolutionary biology. He’s no inspiring, Robin-Williams-in-Good-Will-Hunting type; his awkward demeanour, receding hairline and ill-fitting Parka hardly capture the attention of his class of yawning Z-ers.
But much as he’d hate to admit it, Paul yearns for notoriety. There’s a testy exchange with a former colleague who won’t give him a co-credit in her research paper, despite his desperate whimpering and valid arguments. Then, suddenly, it happens: everyone seems to know who Paul is. Old acquaintances and new admirers begin crawling out of the woodwork, all with the same opening line: ‘I saw you in my dream.’
Dream Scenario ushers into those gonzo dream sequence in a flurry of mad visuals involving alligators and earthquakes that invite comparisons with fellow A24 production Everything, Everywhere All At Once. And while not as inherently funny as some of Cage’s more out-there characters, there’s still ample scope for him to flex his comedic muscles, including a runaway contender for cringeworthy sex scene of the year.
As a showcase for a bang-on-form Cage, this is the best kind of cheese dream
Ironically, there isn’t a moment’s rest for ‘the most interesting man in the world’. Every waking hour is an opportunity to plug a product that he’s never used in his life, but everyone knows who he is, so who cares if he’s never drunk a Sprite before? Paul quickly learns that to be a celebrity in today’s social media age means to surrender all control.
It’s a clever metaphor that Cage embodies perfectly. A once-in-a-generation actor who’s been a mainstay in our collective consciousness for several decades, he means different things to different people. Things turn sinister when the dream version of Paul assumes a slasher persona and torments his one-time fans in their sleep, Freddy Krueger style. This sequence of events sees the real world Paul become the unsuspecting target of cancel culture. The pursuit of the social media pitchfork mob is too much to take, culminating in another classic Cage ‘losing-his-shit’ moment.
It all loses a bit of its circadian rhythm with a tacked-on sci-fi storyline involving social media ‘dreamfluencers’. But as a giddy showcase for a bang-on-form Cage, with some needle-sharp observations about fame in the 21st century, this Ari Aster-produced dark comedy is the best kind of cheese dream.
In cinemas worldwide Nov 10.