What makes someone fascinated
with making movies? Is it a creative desire that should be nurtured, or an
unhealthy obsession that needs to be cured? Is Hollywood a place where dreams
can come true, or where hapless dreamers find nothing but unhappiness and
disillusionment? These are some of the questions posed by Dreamers, with
its tale of two young men who struggle to make a career in film, though it
doesn't necessarily provide much by way of answers or insights.
Dreamers falls into that
genre of films about films: in this case, specifically it's an independent film
about making an independent film. The self-referentiality goes a level further,
as the nameless film that the characters are trying to make is itself about
wanting to make movies; within the film, the characters also refer several
times to the film The 400 Blows as a model of, or counterpoint to, their
own attempts to follow their dreams. The multiple levels here reinforce the
overall theme, which deals with the desire to make movies, and the fact that
some people are incorrigible dreamers, fascinated by creating something in
front of the camera, in whatever form.
Dreamers offers two main
points of interest for the viewer: the first is a glimpse of the underbelly of
glamorous Hollywood, where every coffee shop is full of would-be directors,
writers, producers, and actors, and where tiny films (some artsy, most
pornographic) pop up like mushrooms in every available space for filming,
nonexistent budgets propped up by the filmmakers' fervent belief that this is
their breakthrough movie.
The second main point of
interest is the pair of characters, Ethan (Mark Ballou) and Dave (Jeremy
Jordan). Childhood friends joined by a shared fascination with Hollywood, the
two have taken different paths: one chasing his dream and another staying with
his suffocatingly strait-laced family. We see their reunion and its
consequences on each character: faced with the reality behind their dreams,
each one deals with disappointment in a different way.
For the most part, the film
keeps the story moving and the viewers interested in the fates of the two
friends. Admittedly, many elements of the film don't really stand up to
scrutiny, seeming to be present more because it helped move the film along in
story or theme rather than because it made real sense. For instance, it's never
completely convincing why Ethan calls on Dave to come out to Hollywood when he
does, or what Dave expects to do there. In another case, a sub-thread about
Dave's budding romance with an employee of the coffee shop he and Ethan
frequents both builds and ends in a very contrived manner, as if dictated by
the requirement that Dave have a live relationship in counterpoint to his
obsession with "porno."
In the end, Dreamers
offers a fairly clear-headed look at these dreamers with their aspirations
coming face to face with cold reality. The film offers a reasonable sense of
closure for its story, though it's not improved by an odd "twist"
ending; it doesn't really relate in tone to the rest of the film, nor does it
offer any new insight into what has gone before; it almost seems like an
afterthought, an "I can do this" addition for its own sake.
Dreamers is presented in
a non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that preserves the film's original
aspect ratio. Overall, the transfer is adequate; the print is clean and free of
defects, and there is very little noise or edge enhancement in the image. What
prevents Dreamers from looking better on DVD is a conglomeration of minor
elements: a certain graininess, a certain flatness in the colors, a general
Dreamers' Dolby 2.0
track is reasonably good; it has a generally clean sound, with no distortion or
noise in the background. The dialogue is natural-sounding and is usually
perfectly clear, although I noticed a few instances in which it sounded a bit
muted. Overall, it's a notch above average.
Several interesting special
features are offered on the Dreamers DVD. Foremost is an audio
commentary track by director Ann Lu. We also get a fifteen-minute
behind-the-scenes documentary, which pleasingly skips any promotional-style
fluff and gets right to the interesting material about the making of the film,
such as the location scouting and art direction. There are also three deleted
Dreamers probably fits
best as a rental for viewers who are interested by the film's moviemaking
theme; it's not a bad character drama, but it doesn't quite take the next step
to be truly engaging. It's reasonably entertaining, but everything is pretty
much there on one viewing; there won't be much replay value, except to listen
to the director's commentary for those who are interested in the making of the
film. The non-anamorphic widescreen DVD presentation is adequate, particularly
with the film as a rental choice.