Biology professor Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) finds himself in a bizarre scenario - the mild-mannered, middle-aged academic is thrust into the world's subconscious and is appearing to be people in their dreams. When an ex-girlfriend writes a viral article about the phenomenon, Paul soon finds himself thrust into the spotlight and becomes a worldwide sensation, eventually enlisting the help of a PR guru (Michael Cera), while alienating him from his wife (Julianne Nicholson) and his colleagues (Tim Meadows, Dylan Baker). However, the dream soon turns into a nightmare as the reality of celebrity is coupled with a disturbing turn of events...
There's a common belief that's trotted out by celebrities - often in interviews on celebrity talk shows - that were everyone to experience the reality of being well-known, people would soon realise it's not what it's cracked up to be. In 'Dream Scenario', the idea of celebrity culture and instant recognition is examined fully. What would happen if someone who has been toiling in complete obscurity for most of their adult life suddenly found themselves recognised - not for their work, but for something else? Maybe even nothing?
When Nicolas Cage's dorky college professor, who feels like he's five or six steps removed from Ned Flanders, begins appearing in people's dreams, he's merely a harmless interloper. People describe bizarre, frightful dreams to him, yet he's there in the middle of it like a fly on the wall. Like Cage's character is the equivalent of furniture in his family's life, he's now become the same in everyone's dreams - passive, friendly, but mostly in the way. To his credit, Cage is able to channel the long-simmering frustration of someone almost aware of his irrelevance but still holding out hope against it. For an actor who is so frequently associated with outsized, showy performances, Cage manages to funnel all of his eccentricities into the foibles of a doughy, balding middle-aged man who's a little odd.
Of course, when the dreams become more potent and his recognition begins to spread further and further, the movie begins to take on the idea of celebrity itself. Again, Cage's character charts the story across some hilariously awkward moments with all of the pain and anguish just right beneath the surface. A sexual encounter, for example, ends prematurely when he tries to play along with an erotic dream in reality - something that would be a little to on the nose if it wasn't so damn funny. This blend of twisted comedy and insightful observation about celebrity isn't anything new for writer-director Kristoffer Borgli. Last year's 'Sick Of Myself' followed similar themes, though 'Dream Scenario' sharpens itself around a single character and a single idea.
Much as you'd expect from a high concept such as this, the thing begins to unravel and soon turns into a nightmarish reality. Here again, 'Dream Scenario' and Borgli's script makes for some cracking humour about the downward slope and the slide from fame to infamy, including a pointed dig at France's penchant for dejected celebrities. Again, as much as it might be on the nose about certain elements, 'Dream Scenario' and Nicolas Cage's nuanced performance saves it from itself. Sharp and surreal satire is a tricky thing to execute, yet 'Dream Scenario' plays it off beautifully.