Sunday, June 5, 2011

Under 250: Daydream Nation

Daydream Nation is a film that, for me, felt like a flashback to the first half of the 00's.  In almost every respect, this little indie was a late rehashing of my teenage cinematic experience. It's an aggregate of all of the dark suburban coming of age dramas that were produced in the wake of the twin mood swings that were American Beauty and Donnie Darko.  Oddly, it seems as though 1999-2005 was a sort of heyday for a very particular kind of glossy, drug and sex fueled, nightmarish romp. Apart from the aforementioned, we had any number of flicks sporting  smart scripts and similar anxieties: Thumbsucker, Election, Garden State, Ghost World, Pretty Persuasion, Virgin Suicides, Brick, and Igby Goes Down  are amongst those that spring immediately to mind.  Those worked.  They caught something in my generation and found the 'perks of being a wallflower' and the odd romance in being a total, fucked up misfit.  Any unevenness in story was forgivable.  Their tones were perhaps at times too serious for their subject matter, they mastered the art of the funny/sad and made creative self-destruction something to strive for.  Daydream Nation is just too late for the party.

  Like Lymelife and Towelhead before it, this film picks and chooses which nasty small town secrets it wants to exploit, throws them into a pot, and lets them sit for too long so that they just feel sort of out of date and unfocused.  If I were 17 again I might be arguing with myself, but honestly, while the cinematography is sharp and Kat Dennings carries her lead role in a sassy and precocious manner that would have made Jena Malone envious, everything about Daydream was too familiar.  Dead parents, student/teacher affairs, lots of small town drug use, random story chapter asides; been there done that.  Even the soundtrack echoes with the strains emanating from behind dorm room doors in the early days of college: Broken Social Scene, Metric, Stars, Devendra Banhart; all the bands pinned to that indie kid's messenger bag.  Don't get me wrong, Daydream Nation tries.  It has, as I mentioned, an actress tailor-made for tales like this one.  Dennings is confident and navigates her way deftly through the material she's given.  There are some great points in the film and some solid performances from its supporting actors. The fact remains, though, that it's ultimately a been there done that story without that extra element that binds its disparate pieces and makes it something new and interesting.

1 comment:

  1. There is something I find terribly compelling and attrictive about Kat Denning. I hope she will one day find the role that will allow her to break out and become a bigger star.

    I didn't read the review as I haven't seen the movie but the Variety quote about it being Juno crossed with David Lynch is interesting, I just can't figure out if for the better or worse.


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