Nicolas Cage stands in front of a car spraypainted with the word "Loser" in this photo still from 'Dream Scenario'.

‘Dream Scenario’ Is a Nicolas Cage Masterclass

5/5 dream Cages.

Nicolas Cage taking over our dreams seems like a great thing (to me at least), but that’s not what Dream Scenario sells us. Written and directed by Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli (Sick of Myself), the film tells the story of a decidedly boring man named Paul Matthews (Cage). A professor of biology at Osler University, Paul isn’t remarkable and is often mocked for how boring he is. He doesn’t have the respect of his own students or colleagues. His wife Janet (Julianne Nicholson) holds most of the power in their relationship, to the point that Paul even took her last name. He is, for the most part, not really anything at the start, just a man who loves to study animals.

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His unremarkable nature makes him even more unassuming in dreams where he, for the most part, just walks by and observes what is happening. But as Paul begins appearing in more peoples’ dreams, he becomes a weird sort of celebrity. What starts as a joke slowly shifts. He becomes famous, and the film turns its focus to what happens when an unassuming man is suddenly recognized wherever he goes.

Turning from a hilarious look at a man who barely can stand up for himself into a horror movie of sorts, Dream Scenario hinges on Cage’s performance. The actor delivers some of his finest work, calling back to his role as Charlie Kauffman in Adaptation from director Spike Jonze. What makes Dream Scenario work is the Cage chaos we’ve come to know and appreciate, which is brewing under the surface of an otherwise calm performance. All hidden behind the hope of Cage in a David Byrne-sized suit at one point or another.

Dreams are what we make of them

Nic Cage and Julianne Nicholson in Dream Scenario
(A24)

For a lot of the film, Paul is lost in everyone’s perception of him. He’s not at fault: what his dream self does isn’t really what he’s doing, but everyone puts the blame on him. When everything goes awry, he’s faced with “cancel culture.” He has to answer for the crimes of the dreams of others, but he’s just someone who really doesn’t want to fight anything or anyone. Seeing Paul slowly descend into a bit of that Nic Cageism we know and love is part of the allure of Dream Scenario as a whole.

Surprisingly, there aren’t many of said isms to be found. This is Cage like we’ve never seen him. He’s just a boring, run-of-the-mill guy who never wanted to be famous for fame’s sake. For all the moments that Paul is unassuming or boring, he is far from perfect. He projects and blames others for things that are on him, and the women in his life are often embarrassed by him. But through all of it, the only thing he really seems to care about is Janet, and that’s what makes Paul the most interesting man.

Nic Cage in one of his best roles

Nic Cage and Dylan Gelula in Dream Scenario
(A24)

As someone who has watched a lot of Cage movies, this is one movie I can’t stop thinking about. It’s a Cage performance like never before, so stripped of the things that would be labeled typical of his work. A movie like Dream Scenario reminds us that Cage as an actor is more than the outrageous reactions and moments he’s come to be known for. This is one of my favorites of his films already, and a movie that really highlights how good he is as an actor based on how he approaches characters.

Seeing this movie in the same year as Renfield and Sympathy for the Devil? Dream Scenario is a testament to who Cage is and a movie you won’t want to miss.

(featured image: A24)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.