Dream Lover (1993)

reviewed by
Ted Prigge

A Film Review by Ted Prigge
Copyright 1997 Ted Prigge

Writer/Director: Nicholas Kazan Starring: James Spader, Madchen Amick, Fredric Lehne, Larry Miller, Bess Armstrong, Kathleen York, Michael Milhoan, Clyde Kusatu, Erik Avari

"Dream Lover" is that kind of bizarre, non-conformist erotic thriller. The trailers hint at just a film filled with sex, and a bit of Hitchcock tossed in for good measure. But "Dream Lover" is far more complex than that, and is surprisingly enough a good film, even if its previews come off as stupid and randy (which isn't always a bad thing).

"Dream Lover" deals with Ray (James Spader), who has just divorced his wife (Kathleen York), and has re-entered the wonderful world of dating. After going to his rich friend's (Larry Miller) party, he spills wine on an attractive woman (Madchen Amick, who was on "Twin Peaks"), who freaks out and humiliates him. A week later, they run into eachother at the supermarket, laugh over the accident, and soon go out to dinner together. The next day, Ray can't find her, but eventually tracks her, and they begin having some wild sex. After what has to be a huge elipsis, they're married, and soon have a kid. Everything's great for Ray.

But gradually, things begin unraveling. Ray finds out that her real name, and that she has parents who he has never even heard of. She seems to have this whole other past which she claims to have left behind when she moved to the city, but curiosity gets to Ray. And as he unpieces parts of her hidden life, his mental state gets worse and worse. Soon he's obsessed with finding where she is on Wednesday afternoons when she disappears, and mysteriously has a matchbook from a hotel in her purse.

The ending, I think, is cool, but does wrap things up way too nicely. But it's a great time watching Ray's sanity unravel, and the writing and directing lets things unravel nicely and gradually. The plot twists are plotted nicely, allowing the film to move smoothly. And the writing lets us guess a lot over the mysterious Madchen Amick character. And while this may be found in the "suspense" section, there is no violence, action sequences, or big scenes of stabbing/shooting/whatever else; just good character assasination.

Also, the whole sex bit does not overcome the storyline, like it did for "Basic Instinct." I personally saw the "rated" version, but there's apparently an unrated "sexier" version, but I'm sure it's not TOO overbearing. Although even in the "rated" version, you get to see the lovely Madchen Amick in all her glory and splendor.

There's a bit of surrealism with the direction too. The film is intercut with fantasies Ray has at being at a bizarre carnival where the cheif clown mocks Ray and his luck with women. And there's even a fat woman on a stage presenting Ray's dream lover of the title, whomever it may actually be. It's an interesting little thing to do, especially for a film promoted as an "erotic thriller."

The acting is also very good. James Spader, who's actually a cool actor (even if he sometimes mumbles), plays Ray wonderfully, making him interesting and likable. Madchen Amick as the mysterious wife/dream lover gives us a totally interesting character, making her sexy, seductive, and even likable in that sick kind of way. It's cool to see a femme fatale in an erotic thriller who can actually act. And Larry Miller is, as usual, pretty funny, although him playing a playboy is more questionable casting than interesting.

"Dream Lover" was a shock for me in how intelligent it was. Sure, there was some big taudry sex, and we had to see James Spader's butt and all, but the plotting is wonderful, and the film becomes a good old Hitchcockian mind twister, in the good sense.

MY RATING (out of 4): ***

Homepage at: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Hills/8335/

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