Let me be clear: I hate chick flicks. I also hate all Jane Austen movies. Both genre overflow with endless dialogue and angst, and, in the end, nothing actually happens. I would rather have my hand slammed in a car door as be forced to watch one. Let's be even more clear about my taste in films: I'm a guy who believes that Spectre is a great film, and that We Were Soldiers is one fine piece of movie making. I like shoot 'em up, high tech action films that keep you engaged from opening to closing credits, and admit I'm simple minded and prefer films where something actually happens.
From that perspective, one can understand that when I saw that the new film I Dream Too Much was on the schedule in the primo Sunday evening time slot at this year's Houston Cinema Arts Festival, I winced and gave fleeting consideration to packing along a pillow since it looked like a serious chick flick. After seeing it, however, I now know how wrong I was. This is no chick flick, at least as this guy perceives them.
I should have known better, since the executive producer is Richard Linklater, veteran of a score of coming of age movies, including BoyHood, which he filmed over 12 years, and which was nominated for six Academy Awards and won one for Best Supporting Actress. I Dream Too Much has the same kind of feel and and similar style to Linklater's, which makes sense. The film's writer and director, Katie Cokinos, described as a "Beaumont native, Houstonian by choice," has been immersed in filmmaking her entire career, though this is her first feature film. This is clearly Cokinos' work, but you can see Linklater's influence to very positive effect.
This independent film was not only backed by Linklater and other independent producers, it is an early project of Pantheon of Women, an organization of women backing women in film and television production. It's goal is to
"...change the way women are perceived by men and the way women perceive themselves. Our works are inclusive, diverse and entertaining. By presenting a women's point of view, we will change industry expectations and standards for the roles of women behind the camera and on the screen."
Like Linklater's own work, this film is a coming of age story, but is unique in that it is a multi-generational one told from the perspective of the younger woman, Dora, played by Eden Brolin, Josh Brolin's daughter. Dora has just graduated from college and is grappling with the dichotomy between her "real life" and the "fabulous life" for which she constantly yearns. She's stuck in a New York City suburb with an overbearing mother who's trying to live her own life through her daughter by forcing her into law school. All Dora wants to do is go on a vacation to Brazil that she can't afford with her wealthy friend, so to escape her mother and her dilemma, Dora volunteers to care for her great aunt, Vera, who lives in upstate New York and has just broken her foot. Set in an aging manor house in Saugerties New York (in winter, no less), Dora's eccentric Aunt Vera, beautifully played by Diane Ladd, is grappling with her own demons from her past life. Dora and Aunt Vera take their next life steps together, intertwined as niece/aunt and writers/poets, and that's what makes this film not a chick flick. I kept waiting for nothing to happen, but was pleasantly surprised that something clearly does.
I Dream Too Much has all the elements of a chick flick (including Jane Austen like sequences that Dora conjures up throughout the film), but goes far beyond those elements to tell an intricately interwoven story about two lives that are so different yet so much alike. It is a unique, well told feel good story that everyone will enjoy, and I highly recommend it. Trust me, guys, you too can watch a movie without shoot 'em up, and still enjoy it. This is one.