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1 item from 2000

Film review: 'Dreamers'

15 June 2000 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Two naive but determined would-be filmmakers from the sticks are lured to Hollywood and flop in a small way -- or do they?

With cinematography by Neal Fredericks ("The Blair Witch Project") as perhaps its biggest claim to fame, the low-budget feature "Dreamers" has won several awards at small festivals since it first appeared last year. But it's little more than a depressing cinematic postcard to anyone who is not as clueless as its lead characters.

When has the business of making movies not been a daily tug of war between gross exploitation and grotesque deification of those responsible for creating our celluloid dreams? First-time writer-director Ann Lu, a native of China who has lived in the United States since 1994, may know that the answer is "never," but her film is neither insightful nor gritty enough to keep one's attention.

The film starts with a dog defecating on a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame as a way of introducing the recurring character of a worshipful Japanese tourist -- named after famed director Yasujiro Ozu -- who only enters the scenario directly at the end. "Dreamers" is about longtime pals Dave (Jeremy Jordan) and Ethan (Mark Ballou) of Jefferson City, Tenn.

Escaping a broken home, Ethan is the first young man to go west. The shy Dave, who was called "retard" by schoolmates when growing up, comes from a religious family. His parents matter-of-factly load him up with condoms as he gets on the bus. On the way to hell ... er, Hollywood, Dave gets sleepy reading Ethan's satirical script about sufferers of CFDS (Chronic Filmmaking Deficiency Syndrome). Does Dave wake up figuratively and literally when he gets to dreamland?

Most of "Dreamers" chronicles Dave's brush with the "realities of the business." Struggling auteur Ethan, living with his half-crazy mother, is already jaded and ready to call it quits when Dave shows up to urge him onward. With a pathetically ineffective producer (Courtney Gains) not helping the situation, unprepared Dave goes to work on a sexploitation movie to gain experience. He learns an illusion-shattering thing or two.

Eventually, Dave has romantic desires for genuine honey and struggling actress Patricia (Portia Dawson). But when he has the urge to help Ethan get money for his movie, Dave loses his innocence to Valerie (Ruth De Sosa), a horny married woman and potential investor. Meanwhile, there are several predictable flashbacks and interludes that might be dreams within a dream, including one where the leads meet a low-budget producer-distributor (wryly played by the late Paul Bartel), who insists the secret to a successful movie is to have "something happen every four minutes."

Much of "Dreamers" is competent in terms of the basics, but Lu really has nothing new to say and can't resist an upbeat ending. Her cause is helped and hindered by the performances, some of which are more focused than others, often as a result of Lu's hit-and-miss screenplay.


Dark Lantern Pictures

An Artie Glackin production

Screenwriter-director: Ann Lu

Producer: Artie Glackin

Executive producers: Peiti Feng,

Yang-Wen Lu, Carl L. Fredericks, Henry Zhao

Director of photography: Neal Fredericks

Production designer: Jordan Steinberg

Editor: Andrea Zondler

Music: Bob Mithoff



Dave: Jeremy Jordan

Ethan: Mark Ballou

Mike: Courtney Gains

Patricia: Portia Dawson

Valerie: Ruth De Sosa

Matt: Camille Gaston

Pete: Brian Krause

Larry: Paul Bartel

Running time -- 93 minutes

No MPAA Rating


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