Though a film about high school angst, Daydream Nation isn’t your typical teen movie. Unlike the glossy cult-classic Clueless, the heronine of Canadian director Michael Goldbach’s first feature recalls Juno’s independent spirit and cynical wit, kicked up with the sexual prowess of Mena Suvari in American Beauty.
17-year-old Caroline Wexler, played by Kate Dennings, is the subject of this coming of age tale. The passing of her mother early in her adolescence has thickened her skin and aged her into a teen wise beyond her years. In the role of a spunky urbanite, Dennings infuses her character with the same sarcastic charm and suggestive beauty as won over audience in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.
For young Caroline, the film recalls “the year that everything happened.” After her mother’s death she moves from the city with her father to a small town located on the way to nowhere. One haunted by a serial killer praying on the pubescent, and hovered over by an industrial fire that burns from a distance. Outcast by her new classmates for her fluidity and big city I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude, Caroline refuses to submit to a life of boredom in this “hick town” and uses sex as her decoy.
She amuses herself by entering a twisted affair with her English teacher Mr. Anderson played by the boding Josh Lucas. Though he’s almost twice her age, she plays the part of seducer and he falls pray. Private tutoring, sex in the classroom and weekend sleepovers quickly ensue.
Confused—as most teens are in relationships—she finds herself in affair number two, this time with her classmate Thurston. He’s painfully awkward and equally as sensitive. Stricken by guilt from a troubled past, he numbs his haunting memories with his love for Dennings and the stimulation from getting high using any and every household product he can find.
Eventually becoming uncomfortable with the power over both men, and with paralyzing realization that she’s only a teenager, Dennings character loses herself in both affairs affecting everyone involved.
In his feature debut, set to release nation wide May 6, Goldbach offers a real, yet sometimes surreal look at adolescence, fumbling through the reality of recreational drug use and sexual experimentation. He captures an age where fitting in and standing out are at a cross road, and the concept of life after high school is innately unimaginable.