Starring Kat Dennings, Josh Lucas and Reece Thompson. Directed by Michael Goldbach. 98 minutes.
When you hear the phrase “made by a first-time director”, you automatically expect amateur, false-feeling filmmaking. The same (sadly) goes for the words “Canadian film.” Daydream Nation can technically be attached to both those descriptions, but I swear, you wouldn’t know it.
Daydream Nation is a film about looking beyond expectations. Starring Kat Dennings, Josh Lucas and newcomer Reece Thompson, this homegrown, Michael Goldbach-directed dramedy is a full of pleasant surprises. With the warped wit of Juno, the look of a Wes Anderson flick (It’s all in the random mid-movie titles) and the bittersweet undertone of Donnie Darko, Daydream Nation comes across as slow-burning, hipster-lite mishmash of American teen movie traditions. In fact, save for an awkward Atom Egoyan reference, it’s completely detached from shameless Canadiana.
The main character, Caroline (a whip smart Dennings) is both a bitch and a heroine – or rather, a non-suicidal version of Veronica from Heathers. And her story sounds creepy and cliched on paper – she has an affair with her history teacher (a way-grating Lucas) – but comes across as clever and even, comical on screen.The difference is, Caroline is not the helpless prey of a pedophile of a parental figure. She’s the instigator, the Mrs. Robinson to his Lucas’ Ben Braddock.
In addition to the teacher-student shenanigans, there is a subplot about a serial killer in a white suit. We don’t get much info about, except that he has been randomly murdering girls young girls in Caroline’s hick town surroundings. It seems like a big part of the story at first, but it sort of fades in and out by the end, almost as though it was thrown in to amp up the quirk.
Like Caroline, or any of the strange residents of her way-small town, Daydream Nation is far from perfect. But it’s definitely thought-provoking. Well, for a teen movie. It’s somewhat of a modern-day Virgin Suicides – with its wispy cinematography and darkly funny tone (There’s even an ominous scene involving kids in gas masks). Funny enough, that film was also by a young, up and coming director – by the name of Sofia Coppola. Let’s just hope Goldbach is more Lost in Translation than Marie Antoinettewhen he grows up. B