Lizzie rolls over in bed at the start of Robert Schwartzman’s Dreamland and whispers to her boyfriend Monty, “Fuck me.” “Right now?” he asks, perplexed. It’s an awkwardly funny and sexually frank way to open the film. And with Monty unable to satisfy her request, she grabs a vibrator and goes into her own dreamland.
Schwartzman’s film is bawdy in its exploration of sexual fantasies, some of them extravagant. But it’s a safer movie than its slick, retro look and subject matter would have you believe. Dreamland is the story of a struggling young pianist who starts an affair with a wealthy seductress, so comparisons to The Graduate are inevitable. The first feature directed, written, and composed by Schwartzman (brother to Jason, who also stars), Dreamland starts strong as a movie about frustration, whether sexual, emotional, or aspirational.
Unfortunately, anything that would ground it in more realism stops there. Monty and Lizzie’s (Johnny Simmons and Frankie Shaw) relationship is on the rocks, as is Monty’s career, and so they turn to affairs that are transparently cliché. Lizzie gets involved in an old porno scenario with a plumber (Nick Thune), and Monty gets the Mrs. Robinson treatment from rich housewife Olivia (Amy Landecker). Landecker’s sultry performance hints at her character’s desires, and Simmons looks handsome even as he makes Monty lovably hapless, but Dreamland turns more to Monty’s stylized sex fantasies than concrete life.
The conclusion leaves Olivia and Lizzie in the lurch. Still, Schwartzman is a new director to watch. He shoots one scene of Monty and Olivia in bed from above and backwards for an extra-dreamy look, and it’s all propelled by his own Eighties-tilted, synth-heavy score.
Directed by Robert Schwartzman
Opens November 11, Cinema Village