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Daydream Nation


Watchable, if beguiling, drama that tries hard to be hip

Rod Lott May 10th, 2011

"Daydream Nation" was and is the title of a seminal alt-rock album: Sonic Youth's 1988 LP.

daydreamnation

Now it shares the moniker with a Canadian film that wishes it were as hip and influential. Mind you, the drama isn't bad — just a well-shot narrative mess.

Kat Dennings (the Norah of the cooler-than-thou "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist")  fronts and narrates the proceedings as Caroline Wexler, a high school student who's moved with her father from the big town to a small town. That's just the first notable occurrence in a year filled with them, she informs us — the year that everything happened.

By "everything," she mainly means a romance with sad, well-meaning stoner Thurston (as in Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, obviously, and played by Reece Thompson of "Rocket Science"), whom she devirginizes and manipulates. She also means a romance — concurrent, yet forbidden — with her single, in-over-his-head teacher, Barry (Josh Lucas, "The Lincoln Lawyer"), with whom she has much sex and manipulates.

These three comprise the core of writer/director Michael Goldbach's "Daydream," but they all could use more exploring. Instead, his attention is diverted by extraneous characters like a butch gym teacher (Rachel Blanchard, "Open House") and a wise-beyond-her-years grade schooler (Natasha Calis, "Held Hostage"); these people are interesting — even more so than the leads — but Goldbach does little with them. Further focus is lost by introducing a serial killer subplot.

What we're left with is certainly watchable, if beguiling. Had Goldbach exhibited as much love for his main story as he does Devendra Banhart songs and scenes shot in slow-motion to grant them Deeper Meaning, "Daydream Nation" might have become one of those movies that doubles as a generational touchstone.

I've always liked Dennings since I first saw her in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," but I'm beginning to question that, now that I've realized she plays the same character in everything, including the new, big-budget "Thor." Exhibiting more than a little of a young Tom Cruise, Thompson steals the show with his likable angst, and deserves to work more often than most of his contemporaries. It's also nice to see a former romantic lead like Lucas go a little bonkers. "Daydream"'s problem is that it goes a little too bonkers, right along with him. —Rod Lott



 
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