When sultry teen, Caroline (Kat Dennings) moves to a small town, she sets her sights on seducing High School English teacher and aspiring writer, Barry Anderson (Josh Lucas) all while angst ridden Thurston (Reece Thompson) wants nothing more than to be Caroline’s boyfriend. With a hodgepodge of storytelling techniques, voiceovers, assorted side stories and unlikeable characters, DAYDREAM NATION has only a handful of redeeming qualities. In short, DAYDREAM NATION lacked the right elements to make this film great.
Starting with the positive, there was an assortment of onscreen moments that worked. The split-screen shots alternating between the Chemistry class and kids experimenting with household products to get high at home was really fantastic. The closing moment was very nice, and not to spoil it for anyone who wants to sit through this film, I’ll just say I liked the two viewpoints. Reece Thompson put forth an excellent performance as Thurston. Each awkward moment, each time he is wasted off of assorted drugs or alcohol, he shines as an actor. The relationship between Thurston and his mother (Andie MacDowell) felt realistic, sweet, and produced a perfect surprise laugh out loud moment. Thompson was endearing and I look forward in seeing more of this actor in the future. Lastly, supporting character, Jenny, played by Katie Boland does a great job with her role. During an exchange she has with Caroline in the school bathroom we see a wide range of emotion and some great acting chops.
In a movie with so much potential and talent, it makes me wish there were more great moments and that the filmmakers did not utilize every storytelling technique available in one film. Starting with a voiceover by Caroline describing the crazy year she just had with a montage of clips that will be revealed to us throughout the movie, a specific tone is set. As a viewer I am ready for that type of a film, however as the film progresses, we learn the background of assorted supporting characters through a titled flashback. In fact there are a lot of flashbacks within a year-in-review film.
But the storytelling is not the worst of it. The script did not develop likeable characters. It was really hard to connect with Kat Denning’s character on a variety of levels. The times she feels remorseful for her actions, as a viewer I did not care. Leaving me with an icky feeling from the beginning, I was not rooting for her character to succeed. Not sure if it was necessary to learn the background of teacher Barry Anderson to keep the story going except to show how crazy and tormented he is from a past relationship. Josh Lucas did not let his character down, Barry definitely felt like a man about to break. But, again, Barry is not a character I cared about. Lastly, the side story of a serial killer on the loose did not add anything to the movie and I think the picture could have culminated without this randomness.
With a clever title and some original concepts on the high school/teenage drama, this film fell short from making the impact it felt like it wanted to make.
Video (1.78:1): Sharp picture for all the various storytelling elements used throughout the film.
Audio (Dolby True HD 5.1): Good audio for this dialogue driven picture.
Behind The Scenes Of Daydream Nation (6:41): A typical ‘making of’ feature where the director, cast, crew praise one another for being awesome.