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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: July 5: Daydream Nation


July 5: Daydream Nation

"Tells the story of a city girl who moves to a small town and becomes entangled in a love triangle between her high school teacher and a stoner classmate."
Directed by: Michael Goldbach, Rated: R, 98 minutes

Daydream Nation is a teenage angst movie with way too much angst and way too much going on. It takes the worst parts of Juno (the f**k the world attitude and "strong" female lead), adds a little visual tidbits of Donnie Darko, and throws in a completely unnecessary serial killer in the mix, just because. There is so much going on in this film, it's really hard to focus on any particular character, let alone care enough about them. However, Daydream Nation does try very hard to be good, and while most of the film is incredibly forgettable, the performances are solid, with a cast led by the sexy Kat Dennings.

Who, clearly, has large... talent.

Daydream Nation follows the story of Caroline Wexler (Dennings), a city girl who moves to a small town and is immediately bored with the place (even though there's more drugs to do than a Colombian whorehouse and a serial killer on the loose to keep thinks interesting). To spice things up a bit, Caroline throws herself at her teacher, Mr. Anderson (Josh Lucas). Mr. Anderson has no qualms about banging a student and their sex flings begin immediately, disguised as tutor sessions. Of course, there's a troubled little boy, Thurston (Reece Thompson), her own age that has a crush on Caroline and she tries to juggle the two men, relying on one for sex and the other for a "cover". There really is very little story around her relationships, and the only thing that moves the film forward is the local investigation of a serial killer who continues to murder teenage girls. The rest of the movie is just looking in to everyone else's problem- guilt, sexual confusion, drug addiction, widowed parents. Oh, and there's a subplot following Thurston's young sister, as she plays hide and seek in the woods with her friend? Or something. I'm not really sure what is going on with that part. However, Daydream Nation does look very nice. It's poetic in the visuals, even if the substance telling the stories is lacking. 

There are also a lot of "mini-chapters" that try to give the film depth, but in the end, only distracts

As mentioned before, the best part of Daydream Nation is the acting. Even the script, minus the confusing and unecessary stories, is pretty good. Dennings is great as Caroline and very believable as the mature on the outside, vulnerable on the inside, sex-crazed teenager, even if her character is pumped up with too many of these "quirky" traits. Josh Lucas also does a fine job as Mr. Anderson and his story, although bizarre, is one of the more interesting parts of the film. Daydream Nation also has a fair amount of suspense and mystery in it, but there are so many red herrings thrown out to confuse the viewer, any resolve to the problems feels worn out.

Red Herring: noun- Something, esp. a clue, that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting

I would suggest skipping Daydream Nation. First time director, Michael Goldbach (who also wrote the film) does show promise as a filmmaker but Daydream Nation has too many flaws to recommend. There is simply too much going on to care about the characters and its frustrating to follow. It's not confusing, by any means, but there is too much packed into a 98 minute film to call it great. Daydream Nation will leave you thinking that nothing is really resolved and that really, none of the characters learned anything from the experiences and events you witness. 

The Good:
Kat Dennings and Josh Lucas lead a great cast, that also includes Andie MacDowell, Rachel Blanchard, and Tedd Whittall
The Bad:
there is so much happening in such a small town, with an apparent need to follow every story that's going on
The Ugly:
not giving a damn about any of the characters, let alone hoping to see them change for the better (which doesn't really happen)

Overall: 5.7/10

Re-watch? No
Buy? No, thank you

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