J.C. De Leon

by: J.C. De Leon
May 31st, 2011

Brand new on Blu-ray from Anchor Bay is DAYDREAM NATION, the directorial debut of Michael Goldbach and one of the first lead roles for Kat Dennings. The story of a teenage girl coming to grips with living in a new town and seeking to find love. All while an industrial fire endlessly burns, and a serial killer is stalking young girls, both of which threaten the safety and livelihood of the town.

Caroline Wexler (Kat Dennings) is a girl from the big city who's been relocated to a small town. She predicts that her first year as a student at Hargrove High as the year where "everything changes." She is under pressure at this new school where people misread her and she, in turn, becomes what they believe her to be. While all of this is happening, the town is on edge thanks to dual threats: an endlessly burning industrial fire and a serial killer stalking young girls. Still, this is the year, she decides, that she will seek out true love.

Her search leads her to two men, her thirty-something English teacher named Barry Anderson (Josh Lucas) and a hopelessly depressed high school boy named Thurston (Reece Thompson), whose best friend recently died in an automobile accident and who hangs out with a group of friends who are willing to do anything for the next high. It turns out, though, Barry might be a little more dysfunctional than she thought, and Thurston might bring more to the table than it appeared he might. As Caroline sorts out her love life, she finds that moving to a new town might not be the end of the world, but instead a new beginning.

For what is one of the first Kat Dennings vehicles, she really commanded the screen and did a great job with it. Fans of hers might be surprised at the content of the film and the things her character is dealing with, but it might be similar to the feeling that a parent might have the first time they figure out that their kid drinks or smokes outside of their supervision. She plays the part of a teenager who thinks they know it all, while at times also being confused about what she really wants.

DAYDREAM NATION has an interesting way of having Caroline tell her story. Told in a first person narrative, she switches topics at a rapid pace and often in the middle of one story in order to complete another. By illustrating all that is going on in this teenager’s life it does seem to be too much to bear at times. The sporadic nature of the story telling can at times make for a confusing experience but in the end everything comes together nicely for a pretty tightly knit story.

The dialogue is snappy and at times feels a little disingenuous, as teenagers in real life probably aren’t quite this life-savvy but that, along with great performances, make for a pretty entertaining movie overall. While this movie shows how interesting the mind of a teenager can be, it might have been helped by a little more focus on the main characters and less of some of the surrounding characters. Worth a rental for fans of Kat Dennings, and for those who enjoy quirky smart dialogue or darker tones in their high school films.

Extras: Almost none to speak of. Daydream Nation offers only trailers for assorted Anchor Bay releases and the featurette Behind the Scenes of 'Daydream Nation', a piece that features cast and crew speaking on the plot, the film's purpose, the work of the cast and Director Michael Goldbach, and more. The piece is constructed of interview clips, behind-the-scenes footage, and brief scenes from the film.

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