Review: Daydream Nation


High school films are a dime a dozen, yet we tend to gravitate to them because of how relatable the high school experience is. Adolescence is the age where we discover ourselves and the potential we can achieve one day. Of course, this potential also includes sexuality.

Daydream Nation is an indie film that combines small-town sensibilities with big city sexuality and intrigue. However, does the combination of the two make for a good film? Read on and find out.

Daydream Nation, writer/director Mike Goldbach’s directorial debut, is about a big city girl,  Caroline (Kat Dennings), who transitions to the wild life of the small town. Finding herself bored and uninterested with the gossip surrounding her, she decides to embrace the rumors, creating this ultra sexy persona that engulfs the hearts of her classmate, Thurston (Reece Thompson), and teacher, Barry (Josh Lucas).

Caroline is an intelligent girl who, feeling out of place in the small town her Dad moved them to, decides to add some spice into her life by seducing her teacher, Barry. Initially hesitant (for obvious reasons), he eventually relents, and the two enter a romantic relationship. However, to build a cover, Barry encourages Caroline to hang out with boys her age, leading to her pity dates with the stereotypical stoner/slacker character, Thurston. At first uninterested, Caroline eventually develops feelings for him, spurned by Barry’s increasing paranoia and controlling ways.

The bread and butter of the film are obviously the jobs done by the three main characters. Lucas’  role as Barry was a bit spotty, but that could be chalked up to the script. He falls for Caroline’s  seduction way too easily. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because of his characterization (and perhaps an allusion to his mental psyche) or because the film would move too slowly if he didn’t relent early on, but it’s just one of those things you know wouldn’t happen that quickly. Then again, if Kat Dennings were seducing me, I think I’d give in the moment she batted an eyelash towards my direction, legal matters notwithstanding.

Thompson’s role as Thurston, however, was better. Being a fan of Rocket Science and Assassination of a High School President, I was familiar with his work and the kind of roles he can play. Thurston is pathetic yet endearing, desperate yet honest. Thompson is able to play the conflicting characteristics well, which is always a good thing. However, I don’t really see why Caroline would be attracted to him beyond physicality and, perhaps, as a means of getting back at Barry. Eh. Thurston reminds me of a more desperate, not-suave version of 16 year old Geoff, so I felt empathy for him.

That leaves us with Miss Dennings herself. I’m sure a majority of people are familiar with her roles in The 40 Year Old Virgin, if not for the multitude of other films she’s been in. Typically, she’s cast as a pixie, the quirky, cool “alternative” supporting character whose primary existence is for a one-liner. Goldbach made a conscious decision to cast Dennings as Caroline to break the mold. She embraces her sexuality and exploits it in a way that we haven’t seen from her in films yet. It’s refreshing to see her play a character that isn’t just making some silly remark.

Daydream Nation, if you haven’t gathered, is a reference to Sonic Youth. The soundtrack is decent enough, but it didn’t stick out as much as I was hoping it would have. Of course, the allusion to the album isn’t just sonically, but thematically. The film encompasses all of the emotions we find ourselves a fan of during our late teens: angst, love, hate, anger, depression, heartbreak. The film, as a whole, was entertaining, but it didn’t stick out much to me. The main highlights of the film are Dennings’ performances and a few lines of dialogue that I couldn’t get out of my head for awhile (“…and he was demoted from hero to victim. But with that shift of responsibility came a great peace”). If you’re looking for “the next great” indie hit, Daydream Nation isn’t it; however, what you’ll find is a solid film that shows promise for Goldbach’s future.

Overall Score 6.50 – Okay. (6s are just okay. These movies usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just rent them. Watch
more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.)