For the love of movies :: Daydream Nation

Daydream Nation (2010)
written & directed by Michael Goldbach
Anchor Bay

Recently I was reminiscing on 90’s indie films, and how much I loved and enjoyed them. Back when I worked at Tower Records, and even for awhile after, when I would peruse the DVD rental shelves with the intent of finding a new indie movie discovery. This habit of mine continued into the early nineties, especially during one Summer in 2002, right after I had my younger daughter, and I spent time haunting this small, family run rental store in downtown Ann Arbor and searching for unknown indie gems. A quick look at my list of of favorite movies would reveal that the majority of my film loves are of the indie variety, and although I do love a good blockbuster now and then (see my current love/obsession with The Avengers), it is the smaller, independent films, that really grab hold of my movie lovers heart and stay with me for good.

Netflix streaming has replaced the rental store browse, for better or for worse (I have some complaints at this reality that I could rant about, but perhaps another time/blog post), and I am determined to use it to search for some new movies to add to my list of indie favorites, and to re-watch some old favorites. I decided, in the process, to add a feature to my space here to write about/review these movies, as I watch them. This way, I can catalog what I’m watching, and keep track of the ones I really love. It will also add a writing challenge to my lyriquediscorde to-do list, and help me work on something I struggle with – reviews. Maybe it will spark someone else to give a not-as-well-known movie a watch, as well.

Daydream Nation is my first “for the love of movies” choice. It was far too early on a Saturday morning, before the sun had even decided to show its face, and I was looking for something to watch. “Browsing” the electronic shelves of Netflix I stumbled upon a movie whose title and lead actor (Kat Dennings) caught my eye, but whose actual cover art nearly scared me off. The cover does look like a “first movie after a Disney TV series”, girl falls for a boy in a band kind of flick, which it is nothing like. But, in the vein of “never judge a book by its cover”, I decided to give it a chance.

Kat Dennings plays Caroline, the sharp-tongued, sarcastic witted, well-read narrator who informs us right off that this is the year where everything happened. She has just moved to a small, very odd town (think a darker Stars Hollow, or a Twin Peaks light) where a white-suited serial killer may or may not be haunting, an industrial fire burns without hope of extinguishing, and the kids in town spend most of their free-time finding things to get high from. Caroline is bored, lonely, and more than a little lost when she decides to instigate an affair with her young-ish, attractive-ish English teacher. Meanwhile, the resident “lost boy” in town is pining away for Caroline, and trying to clumsily win her over.

I know, I know, the summary does come off as a bit contrived, and perhaps it is, but the writing, dialogue and execution is refreshingly realistic, well-written and witty. The teacher/student affair has been done ad-nauseum (including it always being an English teacher), but in this case we see the teacher’s side of things, what issues are going on with him that fuel an inappropriate relationship, and how both sides of the dysfunction really play out. The “lost boy”, too, is more than he seems, as is his family, especially his single-mom, who teeters on the line of a desperately lonely woman and an aggressively protective mother. Andie MacDowell is fantastic and heartbreaking, as is her “lost boy” son, Thurston, played by Reece Thompson. When Caroline genuinely falls for Thurston, it is not a moment of predictability, it is a realistic moment of “YES”, because you see why it happens, and as a viewer, you are feeling it, too.

The last act of the movie has the most “happenings” (Caroline is right, this is the year when everything happens), and at times is slightly dizzying. It works, though, as the chaos, as everything else in the movie, is believable, and you feel like you are running through it all with the characters. The ending had me teary-eyed and wanting, desperately wanting, for the story to continue; to me, that is the best kind of ending.

I really enjoyed the movie as a whole, and thought the writing and the cast was great. Kat Dennings, as Caroline, was by far my favorite and was a reminder of why she is one of my favorite young actors out there and why Two Broke Girls bothers me so much as it is such a travesty to Kat’s acting ability, wit, delivery and seems to do nothign but cater to all the stereotypical trappings of the media’s version of women, and have such awful writing (rape jokes, slut shaming, fat shaming); Kat deserves better.

Other Kat Dennings films I love: Defendor, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Thor and Charlie Bartlett.

Musically speaking (and with me, the music matters), Daydream Nation has a great soundtrack (something else I have always loved about indie movies). The soundtrack includes songs from some of my favorite artists, Emily Haines, Stars, Devendra Banhart and Sebadoh.

Daydream Nation

My Ex-Lover is Dead :: Stars

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