Review: Daydream Nation DVD

Daydream Nation DVD boxSTUDIO: Anchor Bay | DIRECTOR: Michael Goldbach | CAST: Kat Dennings, Josh Lucas, Reece Thompson, Andie MacDowell, Rachel Blanchard
RELEASE DATE: 5/17/2011 | PRICE: DVD $26.98, Blu-ray $34.99
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: R | 98 min. | Drama romance | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Taking its title from a screechingly memorable 1988 album by Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation details what’s going on in the heads of today’s seemingly intelligent but troubled teens. It’s a subject that gets a fair of attention from the independent film sector (Youth in Revolt or Thumbsucker, anyone?) and it receives a relatively engrossing and earnest treatment in writer/director Michael Goldbach’s debut movie.

Daydream Nation

Kat Dennings takes the disaffected teen route in Daydream Nation.

In Daydream Nation, Kat Dennings portrays said teen, smart and snarky but discontent high school student Caroline Wexler. As we follow Caroline (and listen to her in frequent voiceover), we learn that she has just relocated to a small unnamed town (it looks Colorado-ish), before initiating a heated affair with her teacher (Josh Lucas, Life As We Know It) and a rocky almost-romance with stoner classmate Thurston (Reece Thompson), who has some troubles of his own.

Filmmaker Goldbach crams a whole lot of story into the movie, including secondary plotlines about a serial killer that’s stalking the area and a toxic industrial fire on the horizon that’s threatening to wipe out the entire community.

Pushing the disaffected love triangle story firmly into Donnie Darko/Twin Peaks turf, the darker aspects of the tale are a bit too heavy-handed and deliver best on a metaphorical level, ultimately distracting us from the primary narrative about Caroline, who’s well-characterized by the striking Ms. Dennings.

Following through on the promise of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, Kat gives her strongest performance yet. Appearing in nearly every scene, she  holds the film together much like — and don’t think I’m crazy for saying this — Alicia Silverstone did in Clueless. Granted, the two films couldn’t be more different from each other…

But like Ms. Silverstone in that 1995 film, Kat is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including Lucas in a surprisingly dark turn as her older lover and a lively Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day) as Thurston’s dedicated mom. They’re the second reason to check out Daydream Nation, following the leading lady’s affecting take on the indie world’s latest disaffected teen.

As a DVD extra, there’s a short featurette that finds the director and his cast talking excitedly about the project.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.