Synopsis: James Spader and Madchen Amick star in this “smart, diabolical thriller” (The New York Times) about a recently married man who suspects that his wife’s past is not what she’s led him to believe.
Dream Lover 7.25
eyelights: Mädchen Amick, James Spader. its sexy bits. its twist.
eyesores: the unlikeliness of Lena’s ploy.
“I chose you.”
‘Dream Lover’ is the kind of movie that I probably wouldn’t normally pick up. Firstly, there’s the title, which makes it sound like $#!tty Corey Haim romantic comedy from the late ’80s. I don’t need that !@#$.
Secondly, when I saw it in my local video store back in the day, it looked like straight-to-video fare. And you know what the caliber of that crap was back in the ’90s. I really didn’t need that !@#$ either.
But when I saw that Mädchen Amick starred in it, I was on board. I mean, Amick was the lesser actress of all the hotties in ‘Twin Peaks’, but I’d give any of them the time of day, so I picked up the videotape.
And it’s that same ol’ ratty VHS cassette that I watched the other night.
I’d forgotten how good ‘Dream Lover’ was. Though it was first released over twenty years ago, in 1994, I’d only watched it the one time. I had liked it, but it hadn’t made a great impression on me; I thought it decent.
‘Dream Lover’ is still no masterpiece, but my expectations were a bit lower this time. I’ve probably also seen my fair share of fodder that puts it in perspective; I’ve seen truly bad movies in the two decades since.
The story is simple: Ray is a successful, wealthy architect who’s divorcing from his first spouse. They’re still friends, they just make a terrible couple. He’s in no hurry to pair up, but one of his friends sets him up.
The date doesn’t go well: not only is the woman extremely neurotic and all-too-eager, he bumps into another woman and spills her drink all over her, incurring her wrath; no amount of apologizing can save her dress.
He couldn’t possibly be having a worst night.
Then he bumps into her again at the grocery store, apologizes again, and they hit it off. He and Lena start dating, and soon they have a passionate affair, are married and have a daughter. They appear to have it all.
But, two years on, Ray is becoming concerned about Lena: she meets people who call her Sissy and she makes suspicious phone calls. When he begins to dig into her past, he discovers that not all is as it was portrayed.
His whole life crumbles around him.
This type of picture is a dime a dozen: guy/girl gets hooked and discovers that he’s/she’s being taken advantage of. It must be an expression of commitment phobia by (predominantly) male filmmakers. Fun with stereotypes.
But this one comes together pretty smoothly given its genre and the fact that it’s a low budget affair. Though some scenes could leave one incredulous, the way that it unfolds seems realistic enough, contextually.
Where I have a problem with this picture is in the way that everything conspires against Ray, even though it would be very easy for anyone to dig up proof that he’s in the right; he’s set up far too easily for my taste.
And his solution, though satisfying, is a bit simple-minded.
But the cast carries the picture nicely: James Spader makes Ray intelligent but mildly awkward, which is Spader’s calling card, and Mädchen Amick does a credible job of balancing sweetness, vulnerability and callousness.
They have pretty good chemistry, though their heat never seems to steam up the screen as you’d expect it to. But they have some sexy scenes – in particular, a montage of their lovemaking, with her all pretty and him all fit.
The weakness of the picture is Larry Miller, as Norman, one of Ray’s best friends; he’s full of bluster and just saps the energy out of each scene. He’s supposed to be funny, but his stories and delivery are impotent.
The rest of ‘Dream Lover’ is also imperfect but really is par for the course for the genre and caliber; it’s not great, but it’s good enough. Ultimately, it’s a sex thriller with just enough edge to satisfy a late night audience.
I’m pretty sure that I’ll watch it again.
Nota bene: There are two versions of the picture. The unrated version is only mildly longer, and consists chiefly of extended footage during the “crucial” lovemaking montage. It’s not much, but… ahem… it’s worth it.
Date of viewing: July 12, 2017