What would you do as a 17-year-old displaced into small-town boring-town where a serial killer is somewhere running loose while the kids are too busy getting bored and high to even notice?
Image Source: “Daydream Nation” Soundtrack, Indiewire.com
Caroline Wexler, played by the lovely Kat Dennings, is your wise-beyond-years cynic who is independent of anyone else’s agenda and describes her new hometown as “a stupefyingly friendly place full of wholesome God-fearing, gun-bearing folk” and “with more incest than in an Atom Egoyan film.” Her beauty is striking, with a face of full lips and almond-eyes which captures everyone’s attention. Though, that attention, in which some proceed to call her a “slut,” causes her to be a bit defiant, mouthing snarky remarks with an edge of intellectual arrogance at everyone. She’s widely aware of the crap-town she lives in and doesn’t give a damn for how people will judge her.
Daydream Nation is beautifully filmed in northern woodsy Canada, offering it a lush and dream-like surreal-ness that pairs well with its adeptly chosen pop and alt-rock tunes with lyrics with as much heart and emotion as the film portrays. My favorite is Emily Haines’ achingly beautiful cover of Neil Young’s “Expecting to Fly.”
Image Source: “Daydream Nation,” With Kat Dennings, Anchor Bay Films, NY Times
As Caroline eyes her handsome English teacher Mr. Anderson (Josh Lucas), she proceeds to seduce him, in which he fails to keep calm under her come-ons. What makes this actually charming is how well Dennings is able to portray Caroline, with all her seductive bustiness and intellect, which captures the emotionally-bagged Mr. Anderson’s heart–something Caroline grows to be turned off by.
Image Source: Daydream Nation, escapetoeden on WordPress
Though, Dennings’ performance wouldn’t be as successful if it weren’t for Caroline’s inevitable insecurity. She is still a teenager with all her angst and vulnerability, and underneath her confidence lies something dark and deeply emotional. My favorite moment is when she calls another girl out by saying, “The highlight of your life is going to be your yearbook photo.” Replying to her slut-calling remark, she says, “You’re going to spend the first half of your life planning your wedding and the second half regretting it. If I were you, and thank God I’m not, I would stop and reconsider my whole value system, because everything you know is wrong.”
Realizing Anderson’s baggage, Caroline finds a particularly vulnerable virginal charm in shy stoner Thurston (Reece Thompson). Initially encouraged by Anderson as a cover for their inappropriate teacher-student affair, Caroline finds herself losing her heart to Thurston, in which drama ensues in love and her own decision-making.
Much more is to be had and known, though, at the core of my own emotional adolescence lies a wise-beyond-her-years cynic who was softened by the graces of faith and spirituality. This movie came to me at random, but I was immediately drawn to its darker undertones when searching it on Netflix. Also, as writer-director Mike Goldbach named his screenplay after the 1988 Sonic Youth album, that should be enough of a clutch to reel any music-lover in.
Image Source: Trailer of “Daydream Nation,” anhkhoi on Blogspot
Although this movie had a few inevitable low points, it had so much more high moments marked with a particular sense of indie-charm and emotional-vulnerability that is hard to get by or ignore. It is as sensual as it is emotional and, as this is my first introduction into Kat Dennings’ acting, I think I’ve fallen in love with who she is–in this film and beyond it. This movie’s made a fan in me. And it’s got one awesome indie-loving soundtrack.
“You can never really tell what’s good until later anyway, until you look back and think about things and they have time to grow in your mind. But sometimes you make a choice in that moment and you know in your heart it’s going to change everything. People will tell you nothing matters, the whole world’s about to end soon anyway. But those people are looking at life the wrong way. I mean, things don’t need to last forever to be perfect.”
— Caroline Wexler, Daydream Nation