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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 05.16.11] movie review trailer drama romance

Year: 2010
Director: Michael Goldbach
Writer: Michael Goldbach
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Small town living isn't for everyone. It certainly isn't for Caroline, the sassy teen at the centre of Michael Goldbach's directorial debut Daydream Nation.

With only her father left, Caroline moves around quite a bit and for her last year of high school, dad ends up in small town Canada, a little place where the boys are generally bored and the girls spend "half of their lives planning for a wedding and the other half regretting it." Though it's not a new thought, it's definitely a good line and one that does a fairly good job of encapsulating teen life in this small corner of the world.
So we have Caroline, the mature teen girl who seems lost among the other girls and the group of stoners she immediately falls in line with. Out of that group, she feels a bit of an attraction to Thurston while he falls in love with her at first sight. It makes things� complicated, especially when Caroline hatches a plan to seduce Barry, one of her teachers.

And so we travel through a few weeks of Caroline's life, complete with voice over, as she captures the heart of Barry while also getting it on with Thurston and what first starts off as a cover-up plan to protect her teacher (and perhaps her heart) quickly turns into true romance as Caroline starts to see that this young man sees her for who she is and not who she pretends to be.

Daydream Nation may be full of quirky moments and characters, themes of sexuality and existentialism and even of hilarity but at its core it is the story of a girl trying to find herself and I really enjoyed Goldbach's story, mostly because it's not easily definable and because the characters are all interesting. But they�re also predictable. There's Barry (Josh Lucas), the handsome teacher easily taken down by a comments on his good looks, the group of stoners including the reformed kid who has a near death experience after sniffing household products, Thurston (Reece Thompson), the cute, shy druggie whose entire life seems to change when Caroline comes into it and then there's Caroline herself, a mix of adult vixen and confused teen. As likable as these characters are, none of them feel particularly new and there's a sense that as authentic as the Godlbach thinks they are, we've seen them all before.

And so Daydream Nation infuses other material to set it apart from most of the other films in this genre: the serial killer in the white suit who is responsible for the disappearance of a number of girls, the trippy drug induced dream sequences (and even real events that just happen to be drug fuelled) and a bit of comedy that lifts the otherwise sombre mood quite nicely. That's something Godlbach excells at: he manages to take a dark tale and infuse it with moments that keep the mood light but when you consider the material he's covering (drug abuse, sex, murder), it's all quite dark and more than a little disturbing. That's also one of the major faults of the story: there don't appear to be any serious consequences for these teens and their actions and these kids mess up pretty royally.

Even with its familiar characters and situations, I did enjoy Daydream Nation quite a bit. I love these actors, particularly Kat Dennings who always seems so sure of herself even when her actions suggest otherwise, the music (the film is full of great Canadian talent) and even the quirk which is more subtle than were used to seeing and creates a darker story more suggestive of Donnie Darko than Juno. Daydream Nation could easily have fallen into the trap of being too serious for its own good but it deftly avoids that pitfall delivering instead a darker take on teen issues that, though filled with characters and events we've seen before, still manages to feel fresh, a success I attribute to the cast and Goldbach's handling of his story. Definitely one to check out.

Daydream Nation is available on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, May 17th.

DVD Extras: Not too much extra material on the disc but there is a behind the scenes featurette with Goldback and the actors talking about the film, the characters and why they became involved with the film. An interesting watch considering Goldback is a first time director and quite a few of these cast members are well established actors.

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