In Dreams
Rating -

Thriller (US); 1999; Rated R; 98 Minutes

Annette Bening: Claire Cooper
Aidan Quinn: Paul Cooper
Stephen Rea: Dr. Silverman
Robert Downey Jr.: Vivian Thomas
Katie Sagona: Rebecca Cooper

Produced by Redmond Morris and Stephen Wooley; Directed by Neil Jordan; Screenwritten by Bruce Robinson and Neil Jordan; based on the novel "Doll's Eyes" by Bari Wood

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Written by DAVID KEYES

The problem with "In Dreams" is that is has too many good things in it to make a great movie. There's the beautiful cinematography, the good atmosphere, the convincing characters, the terrific actors, the intriguing premise, and the shocking plot twists all woven in. All these elements seem to be distracting to the writers, as if they feel pressured to include all of this inside one movie. Their thoughts become disorganized, and they weave the script together without motivation or effort. Nothing quite fits together, and half of the best things about the movie seem so useless that they belong to other movies.

For instance, there's a fabulous sequence involving divers exploring an underwater ghost town. The shots of objects intact and the cathedral statues gracefully floating under a steeple are splendid. It's the type of underwater atmosphere that rivals "Alien Resurrection" and "The Abyss." But how does all of this fit into the actual premise, in which Annette Bening is haunted by a viscous killer in her dreams? Similar things show up to great prevail in "In Dreams," but it's all disconnected from reality. The movie is severely fragmented and sometimes annoying. In ways, it plays like a dinner-party, in which someone stands up and gets ready to propose a toast, although he's not quite sure of what he will propose it on.

The story involves Claire Cooper (Bening), whose life slowly begins to twist and turn. Lately, nightmares accommodate the stress of her husband's absence at home (he's a pilot who is secretly having an affair with an Australian woman), and she's slowly losing touch with reality.

A common nightmare that she encounters involves what appears to be a child running through an apple orchard, being kidnapped by the hands of someone we do not see on screen. When Claire realizes that she is dreaming about a sadistic killer, her own daughter is kidnapped and found at the bottom of the nearby lake. She has a psychic bond to this madman, but no one believes her.

Quicker than the speed of light, she is thrown into a mental institution. She escapes. She studies the killer (played effectively by Robert Downey Jr.), and slowly witnesses reality shift. Children's' swings move without a breeze. Garbage disposals turn on and off by themselves. Computer screens fill up with words that aren't being typed in with the keyboard. We know that this killer has some kind of bond with Claire, but the script never tells us how, or why, she is the one who sees these things. Is there some prior relation that we don't know about? Or is this just the average suvillian, picked at random to project the killings through dreams?

To incorporate as much movement in the script as possible, the writers add chase scenes, gruesome deaths, more dream sequences, the underwater ghost town, possession, and a garbage disposal spewing apple juice to keep our minds engaged and distracted from the scripts poor plot direction. These people think that, in order to preoccupy our minds from seeing write through the styrophoam-thin story, all of these numerous (yet fascinating) elements will satisfy our needs. I cannot tell you how many times in the theater I heard "this is amazing," or "I love this movie." For some people the distraction worked. For me, a die-hard fan of the serial killer genre, I knew exactly what was going on.

As thrilling and intriguing as some of the things seem, there is always this displacement in whatever the script tries to incorporate. Elements like the underwater city belong to strong, wise scripts that can make use of them in every possible effective way. Put them into a movie like "In Dreams," and it's only amusing aspect is the fact that it diverts observation from the claustrophobic story structure.

1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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