Watching this movie, I felt a constant state of fear/dread/nervousness/excitedness/trepidation/anxiety. I was gripping the edges of my chair and munching my detestable candies (whose idea was it to replace Raisinets with Sun Maid? I’m suing) and my eyes were wide open. Then, two days later, I had forgotten I had seen the movie. I was horrified. It was so viscerally stimulating, so interesting, so well-performed on the part of Annette Bening, and then it still fell right out of my head. “What did you do this weekend?” “Oh, I saw Life is Beautiful, and uh….something else.” “The General?” “Yeah, but something *else.*” It is this lapse that made me drop the rating – had I written it directly after the movie (this is exactly why I don’t do that), I would have said at least Matinee price.
Directed by Neil “The Crying Game” Jordan, the film has a definite sense of the mood it wishes to convey, and I felt it did so quite well. My companion dozed off a couple of times but I was totally absorbed by Bening’s plight. Basically, you know from the preview that she dreams about this man she does not know who kills, and it upsets her, naturally enough. Bening is really very amazing in this. My companion thought she was over the top, but then again he says he never remembers his dreams. I do, so maybe I could empathize with her more. If you’ve ever been so distracted by the remnants of a dream in your waking time that you find yourself unable to concentrate on what you are doing in waking life, you will probably appreciate this movie more than my companion did. One thing he had to concede was the gorgeous underwater camera work, of which there is a LOT. A whole town is underwater and we come back to it again and again and it’s a beautiful piece of work on the part of the production design team. Helpful hints to future viewers: Just because it’s a gothic window doesn’t mean it’s a church. This was confusing until I figured out it was just a pretty window. So I’ll give away that much so no one obsesses about the wrong thing.
Aidan Quinn is the bewildered unbeliever, not unlike his role in Practical Magic, which I also would have forgotten except for the fact that he replicated it so perfectly for In Dreams. Robert Downey Jr., who is one of my secret favorite actors, is actually wildly underutilized. One actor who plays a teenage version of Downey is deft at capturing his adult doppelganger’s aura/yin/flava. But Annette Bening is truly in mental anguish during much of this film and she really impressed me with her performance. I was worried that this movie would stink but since she tends to have good taste in scripts I wasn’t worried about enjoying her performance, and truly, it is a Bening showcase. Everyone else is window dressing (except the gorgeous underwater photography) but no one is offensive.
I think people should see it because while the idea is not hugely original, that of people psychically connected through their dreams, I think the execution is well done, and the reasons behind the link are not explained so neatly that it seems stupid. Plus did I mention Annette and the underwater crew?
MPAA Rating R for violence/ terror and language.
Release date 1/15/99
Time in minutes 100
Director Neil Jordan