'I Dream Too Much': Film Review

I Dream Too Much Still - H 2015
Courtesy of SXSW

I Dream Too Much Still - H 2015

Diane Ladd delivers an entertaining and nuanced turn in this quietly affecting — if flawed — drama.

A young woman finds her life changed when she volunteers to care for her great-aunt in Katie Cokinos' film executive produced by Richard Linklater.

Romantic literary fantasies play a large role in Katie Cokinos' coming-of-age drama about a young woman who finds her life changed by time spent with her great-aunt. Executive produced by Richard Linklater, I Dream Too Much doesn't quite live up to even its modest aspirations, but it does offer a sensitively drawn portrait of multigenerational female friendship that should resonate particularly with young women. The film recently was showcased at the Manhattan Film Festival.

Having recently graduated college, Dora (newcomer Eden Brolin, delivering an affecting turn) finds herself consigned to her suburban New Jersey home when she'd much rather be traveling with a friend to Brazil. Pressured by her single mother (Christina Rouner) to study for her LSAT, she escapes by volunteering to help her Great-Aunt Vera (Diane Ladd) after the elderly woman breaks her foot.

Traveling to Vera's home in upstate New York — cinematographer Alex Rappoport captures the wintry settings in all their bleak beauty — the young woman is not warmly welcomed but instead is met with condescension and derision.

"Here's to your wonderfully useless degrees," Vera offers as a toast.

Although the relationship proves as icy as the landscape, Dora obligingly attends to Vera's basic needs, including fetching suppositories at a local pharmacy.

"Phil, can you grab some of those anal laxatives?" shouts the clerk as Dora shrinks in mortification.

But things begin to change after Dora discovers her great-aunt's journals, many of them revolving around her troubled relationship with her late husband, a famous author-journalist. Dora also strikes up a friendship with Abbey (Danielle Brooks), an aspiring singer-songwriter desperate for the attention of a local resident (James McCaffrey) who happens to be a famous music producer.

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Along the way, Dora also takes comfort in her rich imagination, depicted in a series of fantasy sequences in which she imagines herself as a Jane Austen-style heroine.

Director-screenwriter Cokinos doesn't quite display the necessary finesse to fully realize her vision, with the dialogue often feeling forced, the characterizations tending toward the schematic and the disparate plot strands choppily woven together. But the film has a quiet emotional impact nonetheless, much of it due to Ladd's nuanced performance that invests her potentially stereotypical character with a surprising complexity.

Production: 77 Films, Attic Light Films
Cast: Eden Brolin, Diane Ladd, Danielle Brooks, Chelsea Lopez, Christina Rouner, James McCaffrey
Director-screenwriter: Katie Cokinos
Producers: Ed McWilliams, Jay Thames
Executive producer: Richard Linklater
Director of photography: Alex Rappoport
Production designer: Lisa Myers
Costume designer: George Veale
Composer: Heidi Rodewald
Casting: Judy Henderson

Not rated, 91 minutes