Ever since Juno, filmmakers here and there have been trying to recreate stories that feature sarcastic tomboys that become romantically involved with awkward introverts. Daydream Nation continues this popular trend and the results are actually pretty decent. The cute and saucy Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) stars in this hip indie dramedy which is now out on DVD.
Caroline Wexler (Dennings) is a cool chick from the big city who now resides in a small town with her father. She attends high school like all the other teenagers in town, most of whom seem to be high all the time. Caroline meets and has flirtatious moments with a fellow student, Thurston (Reece Thompson) and the two hit it off. However Caroline also has a crush on her teacher, Mr. Anderson (Josh Lucas). Things get progressively crazy as Caroline juggles feelings for both men.
Daydream Nation is a strange film. It’s strange but in a good way. The humor is dark and the narrative is unique. Caroline tells the story from her perspective with wit and sarcasm. She is Juno 2.0 and the results are pretty entertaining. The always handsome and sometimes capable Josh Lucas is probably the highlight of this film. His character, Mr. Anderson is riddled with psychological issues so deep and twisted that it is actually quite amusing to watch his steady decent into madness. With Daydream Nation, the average actor has somewhat redeemed himself since 2005’s supreme miss-terpiece Stealth.
Reece Thompson is also quite good in the movie. His character Thurston is also troubled but has a better grasp on his problems than the extremely neurotic Mr. Anderson. The scenes of him with Caroline are sexy, awkward and downright awesome. These two definitely have good chemistry together and it shows in every scene they share. I hope to see Thompson in future projects for he definitely shows a lot of promise. Andie Macdowell plays Thurston’s mother and is okay in her role. Unfortunately, she doesn’t add much to the rest of the picture.
Aside from Josh Lucas’s surprising turn as a man losing his sanity, Kat Dennings is quite appealing here. She is not only beautiful but intelligent and tough. She is definitely the perfect package and the two men in her life are each testing her patience. Whether it’s Mr. Anderson who she has seduced and is now infatuated with her or the innocent introvert Thurston who she keeps sending mixed signals to, each gentleman caller is showing her just how bizarre the inhabitants of this small town can be. Though Caroline is a bit cynical, that doesn’t make her ugly. Her personality is just as attractive as her outward appearance.
Relatively unknown writer/director Michael Goldbach has conceived a rather interesting film here. The characters are so rich and drawn out. They are human beings with strengths and weaknesses (mostly weaknesses). Although Caroline is a fish out of water in this town, she has a great influence over two of its residents. The love triangle aspect of Daydream Nation is what makes it an above-average picture. Sure, this story idea has been done before but this time it is different. It is done with morbid humor and a quirky action.
Daydream Nation isn’t your typical romantic dramedy. It is bleak and realistic. You won’t see Julia Roberts being swept off her feet by Richard Gere in this film. You will see vulnerable people getting hurt and love either making or breaking a person’s spirit. More movies should be made like Daydream Nation with characters so real you can almost touch them. Sadly, many of today’s romance stories are pumped out by Hollywood in a superficial and hollow manner. Daydream Nation is a unique and charming film that will probably go unnoticed by DVD buyers and this is most unfortunate since it is a rather good movie.
DVD Bonus Features
The bonus features for Daydream Nation are adequate at best. There is a behind-the-scenes featurette and four trailers of other gritty indie films.