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May 4, 2012

3

Daydream Nation

by Franz Patrick


Daydream Nation (2010)
★ / ★★★★

Caroline (Kat Dennings) and her father (Ted Whittall) moved from the city to the middle-of-nowhere suburbs and Caroline was far from happy about it. In order to feel some sort of excitement, she began to flirt with her English teacher, Barry (Josh Lucas), and the two began to share a sexual relationship. Thurston (Reece Thompson), a good kid with a nice family (led by Andie MacDowell as his mother) but stupid enough to hang around stoners, was hopelessly in love with Caroline. With a serial killer roaming the streets and dangerous chemicals began to take over the sleepy suburbs, Caroline had to choose which guy was right for her. Written and directed by Michael Goldbach, “Daydream Nation” tried to be edgy in tackling teenage angst but everything about it felt forced. For a supposedly smart character (she was in the gifted program), Caroline made decisions that no normal teenager would possibly make. Experimenting with sex and drugs was one thing but having an illicit affair with a teacher was a completely different breed of stupidity. She was the one who made the first move. The teacher, already a bit messed up in the head, obliged. Both of them were wrong. I understood Caroline wanted to feel some sort of excitement but couldn’t she have gone bungee jumping or skydiving instead? She was completely unlikable. Caroline reminded me of those girls in high school so desperate to be different that they were willing to hurt others for the sake of entertaining their delusions. She craved attention and she would go in whichever direction that offered her a bigger spotlight. The symbolisms were heavy-handed. For instance, a factory nearby expelled toxic smoke and the wind carried the chemicals to town. People were forced to use masks. The literal masks were supposed to show us that nobody really knew each other. That was probably the reason why the killer had been out and about for so long. I wish the picture had been more stripped down. I wanted to know more about Thurston and his friends. One of them had a seizure in class because his body could no longer deal with the drugs. They were so uninformed and addicted that they were stupid enough to take cleaning supplies from the kitchen and get high off them. That was far more realistic than some girl who wanted to have sex with her teacher just because she was bored. Lastly, the picture had some glaring inconsistencies. In the beginning, Caroline claimed that her father, in a span of a year, would eventually find out that he had cancer. A year had gone by and it was never mentioned again. “Daydream Nation” was cluttered, unfocused and depressing. There was not one teenager who was genuinely happy. Why is that? Its cynicism was bloated and pretentious.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Diana
    May 4 2012

    Oh my God, this is the stupidest review I’ve ever read. It’s even kind of sexist. Girls like Kat Dennings’ character exist and I thought the movie was brave to show their thought process. I even have friends who have done similarly stupid things. But this reviewer is so judgmental (gasp — they do drug!) and then does a terrible job dissecting the metaphors (the masks don’t seem to me to be referring to the characters not knowing each other. I guess we all have different interpretations of things…but that doesn’t mean this particular interpretation isn’t clueless). And finally…this reviewer is WRONG about the character getting cancer. If you listen, it says it was the year he discovered an itch that “much later became cancer, and later still took his life”. So no, it was not in that year. If you’re going to pass yourself off as a reviewer you should get your details right.
    My friends and I love this movie and if you don’t like Kat Dennings in this, then I just pity you.

    Reply
    • May 4 2012

      Diana,

      I don’t see why my assessment of the film is sexist.

      1) While I agree that girls like Caroline do exist, can you tell me how having an affair with a teacher is NOT stupid? Further, I stated that both the student and the teacher were wrong. How is that sexist?

      2) I have no problem with characters who do drugs in the movies. If you’ve read my past reviews, you’d know that. Your claim of me being judgmental, at best, is a generalization.

      3) “My friends and I love this movie and if you don’t like Kat Dennings in this, then I just pity you.” I don’t even know how to respond to that. Your implication is that I have to like Kat Dennings in this for me to earn your approval. Thanks, but I don’t need it. That’s not film criticism. I say what I like and don’t like about the film. If a person has something smart to say about my assessment, then I’m willing to acknowledge that. Clearly, it isn’t the case here.

      Lasty, I like Dennings as an actress, yes, but I know a weak film when I see one.

      However, I’m happy that you enjoyed the movie. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  2. Diana
    May 4 2012

    You’re entitled to your opinion but please don’t pretend this is film criticism at its finest. You got big details about the movie wrong, your interpretation is not very well thought out, and no, you don’t have to like Kat Dennings in this to get my approval: you just have to have something intelligent and interesting to say besides “couldn’t she have gone bunjee jumping…?” (you spelled that wrong, btw.)
    I think the way you write about her character IS sexist, or just so dismissive that you haven’t put an ounce of thought into what teenage girls think and go through. You say she’s not “normal”, but I have a feeling your idea of normal would make for a pretty dull film. You say she’s like one of those girls in high school who wants attention and doesn’t care who she hurts. Well, yup, that seems exactly like who she is…which is why it’s interesting to see that kind of character dealt with and dissected.
    Finally, you say you’ll acknowledge when someone says something smart about your criticism, but you didn’t mention that your whole point about the cancer was just plain wrong.

    Reply

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