People meet in life, live a lovely harmonious dream and die – then what? What Dreams May Come (and the Oscar for Outstanding Achievement in Production Design goes to…) seems to ask the question, how can something that powerful end with death? I saw this movie with every hormone in my body primed for a tear jerker, and instead, I left the theatre with a quiet, contemplative melancholy and only a couple of tears shed. Unlike the bawling I did at the end of say, Boys on the Side, this was a pure, honest weep, one generated by my own feelings and not just the artful swelling of score. Because I was enjoying the movie on such a visceral level, occasionally things (the dog) seemed jarringly false and even unpleasantly stupid. But that is just my perception.
If you’ve ever seen Cirque du Soleil live (oh man! Full Price times two!) you will understand what I say when I declare that the French are going to LOVE this movie. There is nothing more beautiful than a movie that can take dream imagery and pull it off, presentation-wise. From constancy of color and the intermingling of the real world with the afterlife/dream world, it is a feast. However (and after such an initial gush, how could there *not* be a however), the one problem I had with the movie is, oddly enough, the love story. It’s vital to the plot, yes, it’s utter and beautiful motivation, sure. I felt totally committed with Robin Williams on his quest to find Anabella Sciorra. The problem was, they were so perfect, so in love, so much more than any humans should reasonably hope to find, that I felt left out. I felt excluded even as I was emotionally invested in the story.
I suppose that is a compliment to the strength of acting displayed by the Warm Fuzzy Robin Williams (contrasted with the Insane Brilliant Robin Williams), as well as Anabella. I utterly believed their relationship even though if I had just been told they would be cast together as soulmates, I would have laughed. A couple of plot twists involving characters in the afterworld (I don’t like to give anything away) made sense intellectually but it didn’t work on screen. Otherwise, it was a luscious gorgeous movie that makes you think. Nothing wrong with that! Did I mention it was way cool looking?
Unlike Williams’ last major visual orgy, Toys, this movie didn’t contradict itself or build showpieces for the sake of showpieces (though the daughter’s room – WOW – not enough footage taken of the window above her bed!) – and WDMC is also computer generated where Toys was not. It’s good to see computers being used for good (this) and not just for evil (Batman and Robin). Hell (or its equivalent) was very different and extremely…I don’t want to say cool, because it’s not Tim Burton/Terry Gilliam cool. It’s “wow that would be hell how truly awful and look! Look how well they designed and lit and shot it!”
Design students take note: The bar has been raised again. Robin Williams fans take note: That was not him that was in Father’s Day, that was his twin brother trying to earn money to buy Robin a kidney or something.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 10/2/98
Time in minutes 113
Director Vincent Ward
Studio Polygram Films