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.

7 Responses to “Daydream Nation (2011)”

  1. “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.”

    Sounds like every girl I had a crush on back in high school. In other words, this is a movie I will avoid like radioactive waste.

  2. I’m a little confused as to why they’re giving this a theatrical release if its immediately going to DVD. I don’t know the business angle on that, but it doesn’t seem to make sense.

    Heathers was perfect for its time, sort of a mocking response to the John Hughes comedies of the 80’s, but it has worn a bit thin over the years. Still, I chuckle every time I think of the line “I love my dead gay son!” It perfectly sums up and mocks the inane lunacy of America’s deep-seated homophobia, and Heathers was made before Hollywood started to let gays and homophobia out of the closet.

  3. Bob, yes. I would’ve loved the character in high school. And Dennings is not bad to look at, but yeah, from what I know of your tastes, this movie would be a poke in the eye for you.

    Joel, I’ve been a little afraid to revisit Heathers as an adult. But I loved it at the time. It wasn’t a movie all the “cool” kids saw, but all the ones who were already above that scene. In retrospect, I’m not sure how well it holds up.

    As for the DVD, I’m guessing when Anchor Bay picked it up out of Toronto where it debuted, part of the agreement was a guaranteed theatrical release, et voila, it’s opening this weekend in a couple of theaters in NY and LA.

  4. I suppose that makes sense. As for Heathers, I haven’t watched it in years but I’ve always enjoyed it more for the sheer audacity of it than the polished craft. I think the performances in that one are a bit uneven overall. Everyone was trying to match the over-the-top nature of the dialogue.

  5. I had a huge crush on Winona Ryder at the time, so there’s that and I think Slater’s Jack Nicholson impersonation is one of the best things he’s done.

  6. Craig, I thought you had a thing for Kat Dennings.

    I think Heathers holds up very well.

  7. Kat Dennings is beautiful and she got to be openly sexier here than any other time I’ve seen her, but that does not a good movie make. This is actually the first time I didn’t like her that much.

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