Monday, May 11, 2009

It's a Snoozer. Literally: Dream Lover Review

This may well be either the shortest or longest review I've ever written. Shortest because of the utter lack of anything happening in this week's film or longest because of my angry ranting at the filmmakers for producing something so Godawful dull and boring. Either way, I have a feeling this will be a record-setting entry in Redunbeck Reviews.

The film at hand is the 1986 somnambulation thriller Dream Lover, which I'm sure you've never heard of. If I said “Kristy McNichol art house movie”, you may understand why this is so. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Kristy McNichol; she's the cutest damn thing I think I've ever seen and given a good script and director she could turn in one hell of a performance (see the long-lost, but recently discovered White Dog for proof of that, believe me). But come on: Kristy McNichol art house? Who wants to see this beautiful girl just sitting around talking about theoretical bullshit and staring ponderously into the empty space of a room while the director gets a hard-on from thinking he's making something to rival the contemplative masterpieces of Ingmar Bergman? Blech. But that's ultimately what we've got here, a film that thinks it's art when it's really just a plotless snoozer with some visual references to Cries & Whispers, a film I cannot believe I have sullied by naming it on a blog such as mine. Sorry, Ingmar.

This film is so dull that I seriously wonder what it is I think I have to say, but then again I got so angry the first time I saw it that I literally began chucking things at my television screen, so maybe there's hope after all. Hope for you, anyway. Nothing but despair for me.

OK, I know I don't normally discuss DVD covers here, but I have to mention this one:

Who the fuck is that woman on the cover? She isn't Kristy McNichol, that's for sure. The shadow on the left, sure. That's Kristy, I recognize the frizzy “I'm scary now” look because she seemed to do that a lot for some reason. But the chick on the right...I have no clue. She's not anywhere to be found except here.

Anyway, there's not much point in discussing anything related to the DVD since the cocksucker doesn't work in my computer. It's a DVD-R, part of Warner Brothers' new budget line called the Archive Collection. DVD-Rs don't playback on PC, so I had to go and REBUY this movie as a video-on-demand download so I could watch it on the computer to write this. But it turns out I can't take screencaps off the VOD, so now I'm piss-boiling mad and I haven't even started the movie yet. God damn motherfucking Dream Lover! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

So the film opens with Kathy (Kristy McNichol) lying in bed and dreaming about attending an opera where she and her date are the only attendees. They literally just sit there and watch the off-screen stage for a minute or two while the credits role by. And I must note one of these credits. This film was lensed by none other than Sven Nykvist, Oscar-winning collaborator of Ingmar Bergman on literally dozens of films. Dream Lover's hack director, Alan J. Pakula, really must have thought he was making something to rival Bergman. He even steals the fade to red effect from the aforementioned Cries & Whispers. Fuck you, buddy! You're not even close. God that pisses me off. Why waste someone as talented as Nykvist? And Sven, why'd you take this pap on? I mean, I know Ingmar had retired by now but wasn't Liv Ullman directing something she could have used you for? Why fly over to the States to shoot crap like this? Christ.

Also, I should note that this sequence takes place in deafening silence, as if the soundtrack were actually emitting a noise-cancelling signal to silence your very thoughts. This is pin-drop quiet and given how still the characters are you could easily think you had the film on pause. So after this literal nothing-happening credit sequence we see Kathy playing flute in her music improv class and then getting an offer from her instructor, Kevin or Bill or something (doesn't matter), to play with his band in New York. Only problem is Kathy will have to break off the vacation to Japan her father wanted to take her on. At the opera (no, that dream wasn't foreshadowing anything, this movie is just uncreative is all), Kathy tells a little white lie to her father Ben (Paul Shenar, from not much of anything), that it's a master class she wants to go to. Their friends encourage Ben to say yes but he just says “I'm sure she'll do whatever suits her” which is code for “I will kill this bitch if she doesn't go to Japan and she knows it”, I think. The movie seems to think so to, as the next scene is Ben's friends driving home, the wife flat-out saying that she blames Ben for his wife's death. But just forget this ever happened because these people are never seen again and Ben's wife is never mentioned again.

STOP! Creepy Time! There's something fundamentally wrong with cutting to Kathy and her father in bed together with Kathy NIBBLING HIS EAR. What the fuck?! And when Kathy says she'll go to Japan after all, they peck each other on the lips. Ewwwwwwwww. This ain't right. And it's all pointless as Ben changes his mind and cancels the trip a couple of minutes later. Why was it even in the script, then? It didn't affect anything, it created zero dramatic just happened and then they move on. Utterly useless. And then it's dream time again as Kathy nods off and has one of her recurring nightmares, where in she walks down a long ass hallway, opens a big door, gets frightened by what she sees and then leaps out a window. There's an inexplicable costume change in there somewhere, I don't know why. The symbolism (I assume that's what it is) is lost on me.

So Kathy moves into her NYC apartment and on her first day there she's rather shocked when a strange man walks right in. Apparently he's the boyfriend of the previous renter and and since he didn't know she had moved out (helluva chick he's got), he just let himself in since the door was open. Rather than just apologizing and leaving, this awkward man makes a goof of himself trying to convince Kathy he's nice and not at all weird, which is pretty much a fail as he knocks shit over as she shuffles him to the door. Later that night, after totally bringing the house down with her electric flute (?!) at a club, Kathy and her instructor guy (Kevin, I think...?) head back to her place for an even more awkward moment: while the two of them are cleaning up some mugs he broke with a failed juggling act, Kevin moves in to kiss Kathy and gets within a fraction of an inch of her lips, but then randomly backs off. And then they just stare at each other for a good thirty seconds before coming together for a mutual kiss. The best part of this is the way Kathy keeps shifting her eyes from Kevin's eyes to his lips, back and forth and back and forth, like she's trying to figure out what this strange, lip-based human custom is. It's like she didn't realize you could do this with someone who isn't your fucking dad. And then they, erm, make beautiful music together. And afterward, they shake hands. Swear to God. She boots him out (Daddy's coming over today!) and they shake on it like they just cut a business deal or something.

During a nap, Kathy has the hallway dream again but this time the door has something nice to show her, a living recreation of that famous Sunday in the Park painting (the one Cameron stares at in Ferris Bueller). She likes it so much she walks right on in and joins the fun. Back in the waking world, that creepy dude from earlier is back and standing outside Kathy's bedroom shaking his keys like he's trying to call his dog for a car ride or something. The director sees fit to linger on this forfuckingever. Why, I don't know. Kathy wakes up and heads out into the kitchen to make a cup of hot milk. Creepy dude pops up, tackles her to the ground and then...shakes the keys in front of her. He says his girlfriend gave them to him and I guess that's supposed to explain how he got in. If only Kathy hadn't been shown locking the chain lock before all this happened. I could drive a semi through that plot hole. Anyway, they stare at each other for a long time, creepy guy asks where his girlfriend went and threatens to shove a frayed lamp cord up Kathy's hoo-hah as torture, they have a fight, she throws the scalding milk at him (misses, but he just acts like he got burned because there are no retakes in Dream Lover, by God), and finally Kathy buries a knife in the guy's back and kills him.

As the cops question Kathy about the incident, Ben shows up and takes her aside to tell her that she absolutely must lie about what happened (specifically, to say “everything went black” and she can't remember what happened) because if she says what really happened, they'll send her to the chair. Seriously, he says she was in the wrong here. Um...last time I checked here in the states you have the right to kill any strange person you see inside your home. They don't even have to touch you; if they're in your house without an invitation, you can murderize them real good and you're legally in the right. It's called self-defense. So, the point is this whole scene is nonsense. I mean, they even read Kathy her rights.

After five solid minutes of literally nothing happening, Kathy relives her ordeal in a nightmare. And then, later that same day, she relives it again during a nap. This bitch does nothing but sleep and jam on the electric flute and sadly that flute is not coming back for the rest of the film. She goes to a doctor who says barbiturates would help, but also that she can't have any. Nyah nyah nyah! A despondent Kathy goes home for a soothing bath and – For God's sake! She falls asleep again!! Is she narcoleptic? She has the nightmare again, which inspires her to go this sleep center her doctor mentioned. Only problem is it turns out to be a research facility, not a treatment center. Lucky for her, scientist Michael (Ben Masters, best known for his utterly hilarious drunkard character Julian Crane on world's wackiest soap opera Passions [how I miss it]) takes an interest in her and, after showing her around his wacky underground laboratory, offers to do a brain scan on her while she snoozes and he even teaches her some wacky trick to wake herself up before the dream gets scary.

Since Kathy can pass into a coma at the drop of a hat, and since Michael coincidentally has jammies in her size, they decide to do all this crap right away. But first Kathy needs Michael to soothe her to sleep with her old childhood bed time ritual, which involves Michael drawing a “magic circle” in the air and reciting a silly poem. Ooooooo-kkkk... Michael's trick works and Kathy wakes up before the bad parts happen and then, just for fun, the two of them pore over the five miles of paper from the polygraph recording of Kathy's sleep. Also, somewhere in between Kathy waking up and Kathy coming out of the bedroom, a full day seems to pass as Michael talks about all this happening last night. It was broad daylight when they went down there in the first place. My plot hole semi keeps on truckin'. Michael gives a science lesson about how your brain is sending signals to your body while you dream, and how some chemical paralyzes your muscles so you don't sleepwalk, and how some people don't have that chemical so they do sleepwalk, and how he randomly intuited that Kathy might be one of those people, and how his test results show that she actually is one of those people, a little bit, not enough to actually walk around but enough to move about in bed, blah blah blah blah blah. This is the part of the movie where the writer seems to be trying to put you to sleep so you can sleepwalk out of the theater and sleeptalk the box office into giving you a refund, but not before you sleepslaughter the projectionist and commit sleeparson on the fucking print of this fucking movie. Good God, shut up and do something! No, don't play a tape of your sleepwalking cat! Fuck this is boring!

The point of this bullshit is...well, OK there is no point (seriously, I'm not just saying that to make a joke. There's no point), but Michael does mention a drug he concocted that cancels the paralysis chemical and turns test subjects like his cat into sleepwalkers. Why would you invent that? I mean, what purpose does it serve? Shouldn't you invent the opposite drug so people who naturally sleepwalk can be cured? What good does it do to make people into sleepwalkers other than to give you something to laugh at as they bump into shit and mumble about nonsense? Who funded this research, anyway? It couldn't possibly serve any practical purpose.

That night, Kathy has the nightmare again and this time she attacks Kevin in her sleep, thinking he's the attacker. She goes to Michael and he has her sleep with the brain scan deal again, but this time he tells her how to change the dream when it gets too scary rather than waking up. She plans to just run out the door when the bad guy shows up but when this actually goes into motion, she runs out the door and sees the creepy, shadowy knife-wielding image of herself we saw on the DVD cover earlier. And then she stabs herself and in reality she runs around and attacks Michael. And when she wakes up they just recount the attack again. Seriously, fifty percent of this movie is made up of replays of that one scene and people talking about that one scene. The monotony is excruciating. Finally, they try the experiment again and this time the door reveals that lovely painting.

So the next day Kathy tells her dad she can't go to Japan...again (she has a record deal in London that you really don't care about, trust me) and then heads home to find Kevin boinking another woman in their bed. Rather than, you know, flipping out she just heads off to say goodbye to Michael, who's all excited because he tried the sleepwalking drug on himself. Well, he's excited for a moment anyway, but he winds up deflated when he reviews the tape and realizes he only tossed and turned and never actually sleepwalked. Worse yet he doesn't even remember the dream because he didn't wake up right away or some bullshit. Kathy offers to wake him up after his next dream and – woo hoo – it's time for more science crap. Michael can't make this sleepwalking shit work and decides that his dreams, whatever they are, aren't powerful enough. But aren't we lucky that Kathy's nightmares are so potent? So they trade places and Kathy takes the drug and once again she has the nightmare, only this time it takes place in the lab and with Michael in place of the attacker. This part of the movie is utterly insufferable. It goes on for fucking days with dream Michael molesting Kathy and real Michael watching Kathy sleepwalk and inappropriately sexy music playing on the soundtrack... Ugh. Really, nothing is fucking happening, at least not anything of consequence. This is where I started hucking things at my television because it's just awful.

Kathy finally wakes up and quite rightly asks Michael why he didn't wake her sooner and he has no answer because he's a totally uncaring creep who knows full well he just exploited a human being for his research. Kathy leaves in a huff and later on Michael notices that he forgot to give her the anti-sleepwalking serum. Wait, you have that?! Why aren't you sharing that with the world?!?! You selfish asshole! So now Kathy's liable to just go around sleepwalking every time she sleeps and since she takes a nap every five minutes, I suppose that's bad news. Michael heads over to Kathy's place to give her the drug, but she's already on her flight to London. Soon enough, it's nap time again (Good grief, my Grandmother can stay awake longer than this chick) and Kathy sleepstabs Kevin with a plastic knife. Luckily he, and everyone else on board, is asleep and the act goes unnoticed.

In London, Kathy sleepwalks the hallway dream in the hotel, much to the confusion of an onlooking guest who catches her when she makes the swan dive. Waking up in the man's arms, Kathy realizes that she didn't get the second drug and is rather upset when she can't reach Michael on the phone. But that's only because he's flying to London already. Kathy tries to call her father only for his secretary to tell her he's already in London. She goes to him and tells him all about what's been going on, and Dad's answer is to get her some barbiturates and drug her all to hell. Yeah, that's the ticket! While pops is away, Kathy wanders around his hotel room hiding all the sharp implements and closing the windows but (dun dun DUN) she misses a butter knife sitting on the table! So what, she's going to kill someone with a butter knife? You'd have better luck trying to cut them with a balloon. Kathy goes down for another nap (seriously, seek help) and has a pleasant dream about being a little girl again, which she acts out in sleepwalking. Dad comes back and knocks on the door since apparently she has locked him out. This somehow changes her dream to the hallway dream, during which she grabs the butter knife, which she hides in her pocket. Letting her father in, finally, she dreams that he's the apartment attacker and, of course, she whips that butter knife out and stabs him. And she actually draws blood with A BUTTER KNIFE. Kathy dashes out onto the balcony (the top of a castle tower in her dream...don't ask) and perches precariously on the edge just as Michael arrives. He can't get into her room and has to resort to going through a neighboring suite and climbing from balcony to balcony to get to her. Kathy gets to the swan dive part of her dream and leaps from the balcony. In the dream, she goes splat but in reality Michael catches her, she wakes up, the writer runs out of ideas, and the movie just stops.

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