In this delirious dark comedy, Nicolas Cage and director Kristoffer Borgli (Sick of Myself) take us down a rabbit hole, with the eccentric, unclassifiable star ideally paired to a filmmaker with a wonderfully mordant imagination. Cage plays Paul, a nondescript professor who, for no reason, starts popping up in other people’s dreams – first his family’s, then his students’ and strangers’ all over the world.
Cage’s name, of course, brings to mind his many over-the-top, meme-fuelling roles, and maybe his dramatic triumphs in films like the recent Pig (2021). But this film reminds us of how amusing he is as a schlubby sad sack, like Charlie Kaufman’s fictional, less talented twin, Donald, in Adaptation (2002). Paul is socially awkward and looks like a walking cliché of a professor – balding, with wire-rimmed glasses and a beard. In a masterfully droll, low-key performance, Cage grounds the film in the reality of this ordinary man living in the suburbs with his wife (Julianne Nicholson) and two teenaged daughters.
But he and Borgli also reveal Paul’s delusional expectations. He asks for an apology from a graduate school colleague whose recent publication borrowed a vague idea Paul floated decades before. And he hopes to find a publisher for an academic study in evolutionary biology – his book on ants – even though he has yet to start writing it or anything else.