Dir. Jason Matzner. US. 2006. 88mins.
The debut feature from video director and fine artistJason Matzner, Dreamlandlimns the emotional frustrations and personal consequence of emerging femalesexuality, tracking love, heartbreak and self-discovery among a trinity ofdamaged souls in the New Mexico desert.
The movie is tender andvisually confident, although the script by Tom Willett, a survey of pop cultureephemera and youthful poetry, underlines its ideas too strenuously, relying onstylised soliloquies and voiceover instead of observation, dramatic revelationand personal interaction. But Dreamland
Premiering at Sundance inthe Spectrum sidebar, the movie is thematically and tonally similar to two otherrecent Sundance titles: Blue Car, whichmade Bruckner's reputation, and Campbell Scott's Off The Map. Dreamland's commercial potentialsuggests it should play to similar levels: if Bruckner,Garner and Justin Long have little international traction, their developing USprofiles should pay dividends, particularly in home video and cable markets.
The ironic title refers to adesert tract community outside Albuquerque marked by a cluster of trailer parkhomes. 'I'm 18 years old, and all I want to do is surrender,' bright,self-possessive Audrey (Bruckner) confesses to her bestfriend, the fragile, dreamy Calista (Garner).
Audrey has just completedhigh school, though she has delayed a decision about college. She stores hercollege acceptance letters in a hat box, sacrificing her dreams and ambition tocare for her emotionally withdrawn father (Corbett), who remains in mourningover the death of Audrey's mother. She also provides emotional solace for Calista, who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The girls' friendship isaltered by the arrival of Mookie (Long), a handsome,confident kid and talented college basketball prospect. Though she ishaphazardly involved sexually with a friend (Klugman)from work, Audrey facilitates a developing relationship between Mookie and Calista.
But the swooning, carnal intimacybetween the lovers unsettles Audrey and her subsequent declaration ofattraction toward Mookie fractures the relationship betweenthe two girls.
Bruckner is a marvellously assured performer who confidently evokesthe complications and contradictions of young female consciousness. Sheovercomes some of the unnecessary contrapuntal devices, such as the use of herpoetry, delivered in voiceover, that makes everythingtoo explicit. She is vulnerable and moving without ever becoming sentimental orcrude.
But the revelation is Garner(The Aviator, Thumbsucker), who demonstrates adeeper range and emotional complexity than previously allowed of her. She usesher body to strong effect, suggesting a woman continuously caught betweennaivety and cunning, imbuing the part not with a flagrant sexuality whilecapturing a quiet desperation and sadness.
Dreamland is probably too incident packed in the final third, marring the morehonest and open exchanges between the female leads. The work of cinematographerJonathan Sela is also worth mention through his sharpuse of natural, ambient light and the topography of the desert landscape yieldssome sharp, memorable images.
Echo Lake Productions
Heller Highwater Productions