Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

IN DREAMS (1999) * 

Directed by Neil Jordan. Written by Bruce Robinson and Jordan, based on the novel "Doll's Eyes" by Bari Wood. Photography, Darius Khondji. Editing, Tony Lawson.  Production design, Nigel Phelps. Costumes by Jeffrey Kurland Music, Elliot Goldenthal. Produced by Stephen Wooley. Cast: Annette Bening (Claire Cooper), Aidan Quinn (Paul Cooper), Robert Downey Jr. (Vivian Thompson), Paul Guilfoyle (Detective Jack Kay), Katie Sagona (Rebecca Cooper), Stephen Rea (Dr. Silverman). A Dreamworks release. 99 minutes. R (horror. violence, language)

It's not just Viagra. Every day, the press reports a new chemical product that promises long-awaited relief, if not cures. But there are no reports of the best of drugs for insomniacs: films such as In Dreams.

This movie, ripping off a variety of horror flicks and then adding some of its own tricks, has a first-class actress (Bening), a capable performer (Quinn), and the occasionally brilliant Robert Downey Jr. who must currently be in the process of returning to normal (???) Hollywood life, after having been in substantial trouble.

Irish-born Neil Jordan is no mean director. Among his films are The Butcher Boy,  Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game, Mona Lisa, and his early, little seen and underrrated, scary fairy-tale The Company of Wolves (1984), also scripted by him. How he and his cast  got involved in In Dreams is beyond me.

In a small, graphic New England town, Claire is a book illustrator, her latest, in this grim story, being Grimm's Tales. Husband Paul flies 747 passenger planes. Their daughter Rebecca is a cutie. Their dog Dobie does not look like a Doberman to me.

Claire is suffering from terrible, grim visions which she believes are in the head of someone else,who in turn is in her head, and which announce horrible events before they even happen. One such is the disappearance and the killing of a little girl when a nearby town was submerged to create a reservoir.  Underwater photography opens the film and regularly punctuates it, with recurring shots of a church front. I expected, but in vain, strains of Debussy's La Cathedrale Engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral)

When young Rebecca disappears too, Claire goes into her (Claire's) mind and out her mind too. Hubby has her hospitalized. What follows are such incoherent, artsy, over the top attempts to inspire fear and loathing in New England, that they becomes exponentially soporific. The whole is a hodge-podge that's filmed with good but irrelevant, industrial-strength photography, symbols galore, surrealism, Kafkaisms, and all the stuff that (bad) dreams are made of.

Bening is at center-stage and always good, in spite of the nonsense she is subjected to, such as (one example among one hundred) the screen of Claire's computer showing her thoughts. Red (as in blood) is the dominant color. Red, too, as in apples doing strange and unfriendly things.The computer, however, is not an Apple machine.

A good actor, Stephen Rea, the specialist in dream psychology, stands around as if wondering what the heck he's doing in this movie. What's needed here is an exorcist, since Claire is possessed and (neat trick!) even watches herself dreaming.

Serial-killer Downey, who is Claire's "control" (her visions are his thoughts), shows up 20 minutes or less before the finale in a part even more dull than unappealing. It is politically incorrect  (i.e. gay-bashing) too as Downey's manner and speech clearly imply homosexuality.

The movie makes no sense, has no heads, tails or anything in-between. It feels as dull and  as long as watching, these days, Washington, D.C. on television. Let us hope, fervently, that In Dreams will not add to the dumbing of the public by giving a boost to the so-called psychics who pervade the airwaves.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel