Balding, bespectacled and bowed by the load of a thousand disappointments, Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) strikes via “Dream Situation” with a schlubby passivity. On the faculty the place he teaches evolutionary biology, his college students sigh and fidget; throughout a lesson on zebras, he explains that their stripes hold them protected by making certain that they don’t stand out from the herd. Not standing out is Paul’s complete vibe.
Then he learns that, inexplicably, he has been popping up in individuals’s goals. At first, it’s simply the reveries of household and acquaintances — certainly one of his daughters, a former girlfriend — however quickly his invasions unfold to finish strangers. A droll operating joke has dream-Paul refusing to reply to the dreamer’s cries for assist: In a single state of affairs, his daughter is being pummeled by falling objects whereas Paul calmly rakes leaves; in one other, a scholar is being menaced by a gore-soaked pursuer whereas Paul, sashaying previous, declines to intervene. In Paul’s world, as in our personal, it’s attainable to go viral by doing nearly nothing.
This might appear to be a one-trick conceit; however the Norwegian author and director, Kristoffer Borgli, infuses his screenplay with a disappointment that foregrounds Paul’s long-burning want for recognition. At lunch with a former graduate college classmate (Paula Boudreau), who has lately printed the e-book about ants that he himself has struggled to write down, he assaults her for stealing certainly one of his concepts. Later, he pushes again defensively when the ex-girlfriend (Marnie McPhail Diamond) describes his inaction in her dream a couple of dying good friend.
“You’re nonetheless doing that?,” she asks, incredulous. “Trying to find the insult?” It’s maybe the film’s most necessary line, including layers to a personality who might appear a idiot. However Paul is boring, not despicable, a vaguely resentful educational who’s beloved by his stoic spouse (Julianne Nicholson) and yearns to be included of their neighbor’s famed dinner events. His newfound celeb has him perplexed, then happy, and in the end petrified when the film takes a darkish flip and the goals turn out to be nightmares. Now Paul stands out. Now he will likely be hunted — and never solely on-line.
Pondering the draw back of notoriety and our willingness to change security for fame, “Dream Situation” is usually humorous and often surreal. Borgli’s earlier function, “Sick of Myself” (2023), additionally examined somebody going to extremes to achieve the eye she felt she deserved. Right here, although, he has extra concepts than area to execute them, and the film’s third act can really feel overloaded and indecisive of the place it needs to land. Sharp, unheralded cuts from dream to actuality go away us little time to get our bearings; but in addition they go away Cage free to roam the size and breadth of his appreciable appearing vary. The sight of Paul, in his shabby parka and scrubby beard, try to re-enact a younger lady’s erotic dream — at her request — might make you wish to put your eyes out.
Full marks on this scene, although, to the terrific Dylan Gelula who, together with different supporting gamers like Michael Cera (as an promoting pup who needs Paul to hold a can of Sprite into individuals’s goals) and Tim Meadows (as Paul’s division head), assist floor the movie’s cringe comedy. In the long run, “Dream Situation” is much less all for cancel tradition than the fickleness of a mass viewers that may quickly swerve from adulation to condemnation — even when, like Paul, you actually haven’t performed something in any respect.
Dream ScenarioRated R for awkward groping and terrible outerwear. Working time: 1 hour 42 minutes. In theaters.