Dennings plays Caroline, a high schooler who has arrived with her widowed father in a small town, far removed from her city life. Her sophistication and intelligence soon have her climbing the walls in this one horse town.
None of her peers can talk to her or understand what she’s going through, there’s little to do and she becomes frustrated and hostile and starts taking risks. Only one person takes an interest in her – her teacher Mr. Anderson (Josh Lucas) – the genuine and non- romantic kind of interest.
But of course, she seduces him in record time and they begin an affair. She likes to push things to the limit, literally. She is testing her power with someone she sees as her intellectual equal but seems not to have genuine connection to him especially, when she discovers he has a screw loose.
Caroline also has a friend, a local stoner and depressive called Thurston (Reece Thompson), who’s adoring, accepting response, allows her to relax a little and take power with ease. But he too has an agenda.
Dennings plays her character in two extremely different emotional situations to show Caroline’s duality. You get the feeling that she becomes what these men friends need her to be, as much as she demands them to be what she wants. It’s a suggestion of a niggling insecurity that intrigues. But at the same time, she is a strong person, a woman to be reckoned (at age seventeen).
And all this is set against a bizarre small town world where a serial killer in a white suit whacks kids, and there’s a smoldering industrial fire ever burning on the outskirts of town. There’s danger and a dark edge to everything that happens.
Suspicions and accusations pile up. And of course, there’s quite the drug problem amongst school kids and assorted freakiness. Caroline remarks that there’s more incest in town than in an Atom Egoyan movie.
Witty, snarky, inventive, and cool, Daydream Nation is a weird little offering that scored well at film festivals and with the right audiences, will make a good impression on its theatrical and DVD release. The soundtrack is appropriately stoner/bizarre/teenage featuring Broken Social Scene, Stars, Sonic Youth and Emily Haines, but it’s a bit in your face/ears. A little less frantic next time, please.
Daydream Nation could have spun into a fake Twin Peaks- bizarre nightmare, but it has its feet on the ground thank to Dennings’ solid performance and Goldbach’s crafty writing. The supporting players (including Andie McDowall as Thurston’s mother) are just weird enough to be interesting and appealing enough so that we care. It isn’t impossibly precious. It could have been.
Written and directed by Michael Goldbach
Stars: Kat Dennings, Reece Thompson and Josh Lucas