Dreamland follows a fairly standard outlaw drama plotline. A teenager (Finn Cole) finds himself torn between helping or capturing a fugitive bank robber (Margot Robbie).
If you read that description and thought, I know how this one’s gonna go… Well, you’re probably right. It’s a movie that plays out almost entirely as you’d expect.
(Note: this review contains mild plot spoilers.)
Dreamland is cinematic, in a low-key kind of way. For being an outlaw/crime flick, it keeps a lot of these elements understated. It’s not really action-packed the way your typical action blockbuster would be. But that does give Dreamland a more realistic edge. The use of a couple major dust storms also help ground the movie in its Dustbowl Depression setting.
Outside of the dust storms, however, Dreamland plays out as a pretty standard outlaw drama. Woman commits crime, goes on the run. Guy finds her and considers turning her in, but she convinces him not to. Eventually, they run off together. Dreamland isn’t a bad movie, it just isn’t particularly special.
Maybe Dreamland’s biggest problem is that it almost feels like it wanted to do something different… but didn’t quite manage it.
Robbie’s Allison isn’t a full-on manipulative femme fatale. In the beginning she’s definitely using Eugene to save her own neck. But by the time they’re actually running off to Mexico, she tells him in no uncertain terms she’s not in love with him and he shouldn’t expect them to stay together long-term.
And that would have been something a little different – if Allison was open about just using Eugene as the means to an end, and he went along with it anyways. Instead, one scene later they’re having sex, and one scene after that they’re now in love. It’s abrupt, and doesn’t fully track with everything that’s happened before.
It’s also difficult to track Eugene’s thoughts on Allison and her crimes. He’s willing to disregard the evidence against her… until suddenly, he’s not.
During Allison’s last bank robbery, a nine-year-old girl was killed. She first claims the cops shot her, but Eugene digs up the crime scene report stating otherwise. Ultimately he still runs away with her. When things start to sour, he suddenly asks her, “If you weren’t there, would she [the little girl] still be alive?”
And obviously the answer to that question is yes, so why are you asking it like it matters now? Regardless of whether or not Allison was the one to pull the trigger, that girl only died because Allison robbed that bank. You KNOW that, Eugene! You’ve known that from the beginning! Your choice has always been one of love or morals. You don’t get to have it both ways!
(Can you tell I found this endlessly frustrating?)
The Bottom Line
Dreamland feels a bit like a missed opportunity to do something different (or do everything the same, but in a more exciting way). It isn’t exceedingly good or bad – it just kind of exists.
You can watch Dreamland in select theaters now and on-demand beginning November 17.