Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) stars as a high schooler from the big city adjusting to a new school and a new life in a small town following the illness and death of her mother. Surrounded by unsophisticated teen boys, she gets the hots for teacher Josh Lucas who eventually submits to her underage charms. Complications invariably ensue between Kat, Josh and the puppy dog stoner boy-dope who has a crush on her. As if that’s all not enough for a grief-stricken, smarter-than-her-years teen to cope with, a serial killer happens to be terrorizing the town.
Beautifully shot by Jon Joffin and featuring a hipper-than-you indie soundtrack assembled from original compositions by Do Make Say Think member Ohad Benchetrit plus songs by Stars, Devandra Banhart and Emily Haines, Daydream Nation looks and sounds terrific and it means well but it’s ultimately empty inside. The problems start with Dennings’ character Caroline. She comes from that species of teen somewhere between Heathers and Dawson’s Creek – in other words: too smart and scripted by half to be a believable 17-year-old. We’re meant to understand she’s smart because she talks about sex like an old pro and can drop references to Atom Egoyan and the Algonquin Round Table while everyone around her just looks confused. She’s pretty, but she’s kind of a bitch and not very appealing. I suppose the point is that she must learn to take herself down a notch and play nice with well-meaning boys her own age, but it’s a long road getting there.
Veering uneasily between comedy, drama, romance and suspense, Daydream Nation is perhaps intending to capture that queasy, uncertain moment between our teens and adulthood, but it just comes across as confused as its heroine: full of bluster and big words but ultimately hollow.
Having said all that, a high school version of me might really have responded to the movie the way I once did to Heathers. Daydream Nation might have a similar appeal to the wiser members of the Twilight set. It’s not perfect and it’s not for me, but it might speak loudly to the right audience. It’s getting a limited release this weekend in New York and Los Angeles on its way to a May 17 DVD release.
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