Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 6, 2021)
Set during the Great Depression, 2019’s Dreamland offers a period take on the “coming of age” drama. In the midst of the 1930s economic struggles, teenaged Eugene Evans (Finn Cole) wants to escape from his small Texas town and find bigger things.
Into Eugene’s midst comes Allison Wells (Margot Robbie). Wounded during a bank robbery she committed, Allison needs time to recuperate.
This throws Eugene into a quandary. On one hand, the reward for Allison’s capture would allow him to leave town for good, but his developing love for her complicates matters.
Normally I’d suspect that a 2019 movie that didn’t make it past film festival screenings until late 2020 offered a dud, but the complications connected to COVID-19 allowed a little more leeway. The pandemic so disrupted release patterns that the old rules don’t necessarily apply.
Except in this case, they do. Despite some potential for drama, Dreamland seems like a character drama that fails to fulfill it aspirations.
By that, I mean Dreamland offers a human drama that never gives us much beyond basics. We fail to connect to Eugene, Allison or anyone else, so the stabs at plot fall flat.
A character-based drama with dull characters struggles to turn into anything memorable, and that becomes the case here. Dreamland does generate some appealing scenery, as it depicts the stark Dust Bowl setting well.
The actors try their best to wring meaning out of this tale as well. They dig into their parts with the most emotional honesty they can, and they occasionally add some substance to the tale.
But only a little, as the end result feels like an awkward mix of Bonnie and Clyde, Days of Heaven, ET the Extraterrestial and Thelma and Louise. Contrived and sluggish, the movie lacks real drama or impact.