Review by Sean Boelman
In this time in which people are increasingly disillusioned with their suffering and the way the world is treating them, one would think that the Bonnie and Clyde story would resonate now more than ever. Unfortunately, in trying to bring an expressive vision to these tropes in his new film Dreamland, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte loses sight of what made the story work in the first place.
The movie tells the story of a teenager who, trying to earn the bounty on the head of a fugitive, instead finds himself falling in love with the attractive bank robber. Nicolaas Zwart’s script hits all the familiar beats, without much deviation from the formula, causing the film to chug along at a predictable pace.
Zwart set his movie in the early days of the Great Depression, which is only the first indicator of the lack of originality in the script. The film’s potential commentary on the economic factors of the time and how these messages still ring true today is eschewed in favor of a more straightforward “love conquers all” storyline.
It doesn’t help that the character development in the movie is rather shallow. The protagonist’s struggles with daddy issues are nothing new to the genre, and accomplish very little other than the most basic of sympathies. The love interest is a combination of the seductress and manic pixie dream girl, doing little else than pushing the plot and protagonist’s arc along.
That said, Margot Robbie’s performance is what really makes the film. As always, she brings a lot of charm to the role, but also sells the more vulnerable moments. She acts leaps and bounds above her co-star Finn Cole. In the supporting cast, the standout is Travis Fimmel, who gives a strong turn as the sometimes abusive stepfather.
The pacing of the movie is also somewhat lackluster. Zwart struggles to find the right balance between the family drama, crime thriller, and romance elements, and as a result, the film feels like a tonal mash-up of different tropes. By the time that the excitement really starts to hit in the final act, it’s too little, too late.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie is Joris-Peyrafitte’s directorial style. There are some moments that immerse the viewer really well in 1930s America, but other moments feel much more ambitious and abstract. It’s disappointing that Joris-Peyrafitte found himself so limited by the conventionality of the script.
Dreamland has all the right pieces to be really interesting, but they don’t come together in a satisfying way. It’s worth watching for the quality of Margot Robbie’s performance, even if the rest of it is mostly just very average.
Dreamland hits theaters on November 13 and VOD on November 17.