So, I really like David Lynch and his style. I feel like using his approach tends to lead to some unique cinema that you won’t really see elsewhere. Surrealism, like any style when used correctly, can be engaging. So, when you title a movie Dreamland, one could go in expecting some Lynch vibes. Unfortunately, Dreamland’s use of surrealism leaves a bit to be desired.
I am largely unfamiliar with Bruce McDonald’s work. From what I gather, this is his directorial debut and as far as those goes, this was an okay effort. Directing is hard, this is common knowledge. The movie is shot well enough and has some atmosphere. He gets good performances from his actors. However, the over-arching problem with the film is that it kinda makes no sense. As the director, it is your duty to convey a story to the audience in a way that’s comprehensible, and that isn’t done well. I get that he was going for a dreamlike vibe, it just never fully comes together in a digestible fashion.
This is also a portion of the film that is in conflict with itself. I actually really dig the premise. I like the idea of a hitman going after a finger of fallen jazz singer. That could be great fodder for some solid surrealism and make for a unique sit. However, the way the film is laid out, it’s hard to get too invested in any of the plot. For example, there are several scenes of two people sitting and talking, and if done well could be gripping, it just wasn’t here. As the movie went along, I had a hard time caring about much of it. It’s not a long movie, but due to its presentation it felt longer.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I feel the performances in the film are its strongest point. Stephen McHattie plays duo rolls in the film, and while gimmicky, he does a bang up job differentiating the two characters. Both are well defined and have their own voice. The Jazz Singer character sometimes was hard to understand when speaking, but mostly I dug the approach McHattie took with it. It’s good enough that it may fool someone into believing it’s two different actors. It’s also a joy Juliette Lewis got some work, and she nails it. Every time she was on screen, she brought life to it.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
I usually tend to dislike scores in movies that are clearly inspired by Lynch. I think most filmmakers think that just because a movie is surreal, it means the score has to be overbearing and annoying. That’s not the case here. The score was understated to a welcome degree. That being said, I can’t say it was all the memorable. It didn’t leave much of an impression at all and it really didn’t add an exclamation point most scenes could have used.
For a movie with not a large budget, the scenes of both McHattie characters talking was seamless. Like it didn’t feel hokey or off, it felt like any other conversation between two actors. There was never really any Nutty Professor II: The Klumps uncanny valley shots. I give them complete kudos for achieving that. Not easy at all. I also enjoyed the use of colors in the film. It added to the dreamlike vibe to the whole picture. Not much to complain about here.
"...Dreamland’s use of surrealism leaves a bit to be desired..."
Well, I think this was a solid first effort from Bruce McDonald. However, like any directorial debut, there is room for improvement. While Dreamland boasts some solid performances and some good effects work, it is largely let down by a less than coherent story. I think McDonald’s approach needs a little refining, but he certainly has a flair for the gig. If you have time during this trying period, I’d say give it a look. It’s not bad, but its flaws make it hard to stay awake for.