Movie Review: Dreamland
Only one man is at fault for falling fool to this film. Someone out there dove into this one expecting it to be the long-awaited mediocre farce starring Margot Robbie. Evidently, this was not to be. We shouldn’t reveal names of who or what that person was, but be assured, it was me. Still, Dreamland was interesting in its own right, and will most likely rank a tad higher than Robbie’s soulless gangster flick. A bit left of field and overly neon, it shouldn’t have worked as well as it does. A truly grim and soulless story of seedy business dealing on the far side of illegal. There’s a wry charm built into this one though, one that sets Bruce McDonald’s latest feature apart from contemporary crime thrillers.
The stark difference between this and most other moments of the genre is that Dreamland doesn’t care to take itself too seriously. At its centre lies an odd bit of charm, not leaned into all that much, but its presence is invaluable in diffusing some of the darkest and foreboding moments offered to us. McDonald’s direction doesn’t do anything grand, but at least it steers us in the right direction consistently enough for an enjoyable film. Most of those strong moments come from leading man Stephen McHattie, a throwback to the grunge and sleaze of 50s detectives. From his dusty attire to his noble attitudes, McHattie strolls through this with one strong performance under his belt.
Most of the cast fare just as well, but become rather forgettable as the film swerves towards its inevitable big blowout. McDonald looks to cause moments of controversy, piecing them together as if these building blocks would offer his audience anything to muse on after the credits roll. It’s fine for what it is, but it’ll never amount to anything more than rather insignificant and forgettable. Enjoyable, of course, but doesn’t break through like it’s expecting to. McHattie only takes us so far, scouring the dirty neon streets of modern nowhere, crying out for something more engaging or interesting to do. His screams fall on deaf ears.
Dreamland is a twisted, dark film. What little humour it can derive from its horrid surroundings is put to effective use, contrasting the vile core at the heart of its story. Flagging up more than a handful of issues as we spiral into a rather ineffective series of caricature-like supporting acts and predictable direction, Dreamland slowly loses its way, turning itself into a bit of a nightmare. Nothing we can’t handle though, as the McDonald and McHattie collaboration makes for an acceptable formation, one that gets us to the bitter end of a 50s noir love letter.