Sunday, May 15, 2011
The story is fairly simple, before it gets really weird-- bored Caroline comes on to her hottie teacher Barry (Josh Lucas), a lonely wannabe novelist and begins an inappropriate tryst with little difficulty. There's also a sweet, albeit messed up stoner boy pining for Caroline, an odd young man with some baggage named Thurston (Reece Thompson), and we're set for a quiet, but affecting love triangle. However, there's also a serial killer hacking off pretty young things, a high school girl Caroline is giving an awful complex to for no apparent reason than her own amusement, an indictment of teenage drug use, and a little grown-up flirting for Andie MacDowell, who plays Thurston's riled up mother. When the film settles and focuses on the nice, gentle crush between Caroline and Thurston, Daydream Nation feels pleasantly calming and even a tad ethereal, and there's a nice awkward chemistry between Demmings and Thompson that feels achingly natural, despite the least naturalistic dialogue to hit art house cinemas in at least a minute. When the film focuses on Barry, it's unsettling because the more screen time he gets, the more we see just how much a nutbag he really is-- Lucas gives a high wire performance that unfortunately turns sour before any affection can really be bestowed. The problem is there's too much stuff diluting the simple, dreamy pleasures-- too many subplots, too many uninteresting characters, too much gloom and arbitrary strangeness; that the film is only 96 minutes is fairly startling-- Lynch had less going on is a season of Twin Peaks.
The most striking element is Demmings, featured here in a film few will ever see, as well as a featured player in Thor, a film that everyone will see. Hopefully this rare comic talent with genuine presence will be given a proper showcase and this Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist alum will scale the heights of precocious projects like this and attain the mainstream affection see richly deserves. C+