Since I only know James Spader as Robert California from The Office, I wanted to check out his acting chops in Dream Lover before it will be leaving Netflix May 31.
Writer and director Nicholas Kazan has a few interesting screenplays to his name (Fallen, Bicentennial Man and Matilda), so I was very curious to see how he could tackle a somewhat straight forward plot. At the open of the movie, we find Ray Reardon(Spader) at a carnival reminisce to Lost Boys where a creeper clown inquires about Ray’s marriage. We then learn that Ray is a young and successful owner of an architect company who has recently divorced his first wife because of a combination of her cheating and him slapping her when he found out the news.
Ray’s friends reassure him that he is handsome, young and successful and that he will be able to find someone else. In fact, Ray’s ex-wife Martha (Kathleen York) says that the next woman to marry Ray will be the luckiest woman in the world. That does beg the question of why she would cheat on him on the first place, but I guess we wouldn’t have a movie if it was about two happy people. Much to his objections, the young business owner does not want to be set up on any dates but of course his friends don’t listen. After a disastrous encounter with a woman ready to have his baby’s at an art show,Ray bumps into a pretty young thing and knocks wine all over her dress. She tells him off and storms out.
A week later, Ray bumps into her at the super market and she is much more approachable. He finds out her name is Lena Mathers (Madchen Amick) and he takes her our for dinner. After failing to enter her apartment or get her digits, Ray waits outside her apartment the next night to see her. While he’s hiding like a goon, he spots Lena with a gentleman who she gives a goodnight kiss to. After ringing her buzzer and trying to persuade Lena to interact with him in some form, she finally lets him up but acts as distant and melancholy to Ray as someone waiting in line to renew their driver’s license. Ray asks Lena what has changed, and she said that she likes him. Lena and Ray then decide to help Dream Lover earn an R rating, and before we know it they are in wedded bliss.
During a dinner to commemorate this bliss, a woman seemingly mistakes Lena for a someone named Sissy. This is the second time she reports that this has happened, and it continues the feeling of uneasiness that Ray is starting to harbor towards his wife. From her pillow talk about her parents being abusive to only having two friends attend her wedding, there is something just a little bit off about Ray’s new bride. When Ray has suspicions that his wife may be having an affair, he goes to try and track down some answers about her past. He finds Lena’s parents and learns that she told them Ray was a CIA agent and that it would be dangerous to meet him.
After that, Lena continues to give Ray more and more suspicions from hotel bills to bruises on her body that she has taken on a gentlemen caller. Finally, Lena admits to Ray that she has been cheating on him and that it should make him feel better because it’s what he has always suspected. At less than two hours, this movie creates a frantic pace but it plays well to the subject matter. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but Leah’s intentions were pretty redonk to say the least and the final interaction between Ray and Lena is at a mental institution.
Kazan takes a unique angle at the idea of marriage and really delves into concept of how well do we really know our significant others. With how fast Lena and Ray moved into their marriage they were essentially strangers to each other. Not only that, they aren’t even fully aware of who they are as individuals as Ray remarks at the end of the film on how he finally knows who he really is and his capabilities. Lena struggles with her identity and the truth throughout the entire film.
Ray constantly returns to the metaphoric carnival to learn who his dream girl really is, which shows he was so obsessed with an idea that he overlooked certain details to allow Lena to fill that role. You always hear the phrase that in order to make someone else happy you have to be happy with yourself, and Kazan shows that isn’t just a cliche. I thought the actors did a solid job and it was a unique story, so check out Dream Lovers before it stops streaming.