A notebook of links and commentary on film and the arts, with occasional stabs at understanding current events. A mix of the serious and the silly, and with a special emphasis on Ms. Natalie Portman.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Video Store: Daydream Nation
I wish Michael Goldbach's Daydream Nation had more to do with the classic Sonic Youth album with which it shares a name. "Kool Thing" is heard briefly in one scene and a young man named Thurston (Reece Thompson) seems destined to be voted Most Likely to Underachieve at the rural high school where most of the film takes place. Goldbach doesn't give much of a sense of what life is like in the small town, but rather chooses to try to infuse everything (a fire that won't go out, a serial killer) with a metaphysical significance. New girl in town Caroline (Kat Dennings) just wants to fit in, but since almost every other teen in town has already decided they have no future it's no surprise she's drawn to her English teacher Mr. Anderson (Josh Lucas). What's good about Daydream Nation mostly comes from Dennings, whose natural coolness is a perfict fit for a girl who's trying on different roles. Goldbach has given Caroline a degree of self-awareness of her own inadequacies, and the most poignant moments in the film come when Dennings lets her guard down. I wish Goldbach had let us sit with Caroline a little longer, but instead he's jumping around between Thurston's drug-addled buddies, his overbearing Mom (Andie MacDowell),and a serial killer plot that never gets moving. There's so much going on that the ending doesn't mean much; Daydream Nation doesn't end so much as stop, there's just Caroline in voice-over telling us how to feel. I'm not any less convinced of Kat Dennings' bright future; wouldn't Thor have benefited from being from her character's point-of-view? While it's good to see Dennings continuing to stretch, Daydream Nation tries far too hard and will end up being no more than a footnote on her resume. This movie has nothing on Sonic Youth.