You don't have to sleep to dream. . . No, you simply have to watch this nightmare on screen to realize how sporadic the record of Neil Jordan has become, and how the viewer is expected to swallow hook, line and sinker an extremely improbable storyline, such as is presented.
In Dreams is the story of Claire Cooper (Annette Benning) who has the uncanny ability to have dreams that have eventually come to pass in the most horrible of fashions -- murder. Her husband, Paul (Aidan Quinn) and daughter, Rebecca (Katie Sagona) comprise the rest of the Cooper family who live in a large, lavish Victorian home, but who do not live happily ever after. Claire dreams that a young girl is taken away by a stranger, a serial killer, never realizing that this child is her own daughter and that her eventual murder will do little to keep her on this side of sanity as she knows it. The murder sends Claire over the edge and into the space of the local mental asylum where Paul and Dr. Silverman (Stephen Rea) attempt to understand the how, when, where and why for Claire's descent into madness. She is being haunted by the dreams of the killer as he projects himself into them and allows her clues as to what will be happening next. Will she find the killer before he strikes again, or will he continue to pursue his ravenous appetite for blood and mayhem? Only time, or the end of the movie, will tell.
It must be confessed by this reviewer that she has never spent a more boring or tedious time than watching the gyrations, rants and raves, screams, lunacy (of the real and hilarious kinds!) and basic Olympic gymnastic considerations affected by this production. True sadness occurred the moment that Robert Downey, Jr. made his screen appearance, for his portrayal of killer and ex-mental patient, Vivienne Thompson, was a letdown of grand proportions. I had to wonder if perhaps he had taken this role simply for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that might enable him to pay lawyer's fees for his well known brushes with the law of late. His was not so much a performance as a racing through the proceedings and hoping he didn't run screaming from the set himself. One truly horrifying scene was presented at the end of the film, and with it, one was able to see just what Downey could and IS capable of if his skills are put to the proper test. But, as quick as a wink, it was gone.
Stephen Rea as Dr. Silverman -- downer! I had to wonder what the cure rate in general is for his patients, as his emotions never seemed to tick past a one the Richter Scale. Rea is a perennial favourite of director Jordan, but it seems as though each time he is in a film, he wears a hang dog look with puppy dog eyes to match. Rea needs to realize that there is more to acting than looking sad and put upon.
Annette Benning is called upon do to only one thing, act the part of a raving, yet agile and nimble footed lunatic. She screams and yells, runs and falls, climbs and descends, plays detective and victim, and generally never bothers to slow down even for a minute second. Aidan Quinn, who normally etches a great presence in a film, falls flat here. The storyline that both are expected to carry, has all the earmarks of an accident waiting to happen, and the smell of a stinker not of their making. A barely touched upon adultery by Quinn and Benning's dreams relating to apples make little or no sense, but then again, nothing in this film does.
The credit for the nitwitted screenplay has to fall squarely upon the shoulders of Neil Jordan. It must be admitted that the first half hour or so of In Dreams, DOES work, and the feeling is conveyed that this will be a murder mystery and thriller. The remainder, though, after Rebecca's body is discovered, breaks down like an alibi. Jordan is capable of so much more than this liberal borrowing of other films, such as Nightmare on Elm Street and The Eyes of Laura Mars. Is he the same man who was responsible for such sumptuous writing in prestigious productions as The End of The Affair, The Crying Game, Mona Lisa and the current The Good Thief? What on earth was he thinking with In Dreams? In light of the fact that Jordan began his multilayered career as a writer of novels and short stories, it seems sinful that such talents have been wasted here.
The photography by Darius Khondji is adequately spooky and dark, with requisite shadows and light wreaking havoc accordingly. The viewer does remain in a state of a nightmare with his camerawork.
In Dreams is supposed to be a thriller of the supernatural variety, but is flatfooted in its interpretation and the implausibility we are asked to accept. The television series, The Twilight Zone, presented the impossible in fetching fashion. Writing was strong on that series and a great deal was achieved with very little in the way of big production. It's the quiet ones that make the biggest noise and the loudest and splashiest ones that go down in flames. In Dreams achieves that latter, unenviable moniker.