The 400-Word Review: Dreamland

By Sean Collier

November 22, 2020


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“Dreamland” should be a western, but it isn’t. It’s not really anything; to fit into a genre, it would’ve needed to decide what it wanted to say or how it wanted to feel. It is identifiably a movie, but more accurately a series of events depicted on film.

As Homer Simpson once said, “It’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.”

That stuff concerns an outlaw named Allison Wells (Margot Robbie), driven to a life of crime during the Great Depression. She turns up in a disused barn, where she is discovered by Eugene Evans (Finn Cole), a wide-eyed young man with an abiding love of adventure stories; Eugene knows he should turn her in for a $10,000 reward (and to be clear, he absolutely should have), but is enchanted by the life of chaos and romance Allison represents.

Let’s pause here. The only plausible portion of this tale is that a thoroughly unimpressive young man would consider a radical change in lifestyle when presented with a woman who looks like Margot Robbie. That, I buy. No other aspect of “Dreamland” bothers to hold itself up to minor scrutiny. The big, gaping plot hole: How exactly, in a town that appears to contain about 200 people and far fewer buildings, does a bleeding, limping outlaw with a $10,000 bounty (who, again, looks like Margot Robbie) manage to go undetected by everyone but a dopey twenty-something for days on end?


Especially when that doofus’s stepfather is an aspirational local police officer. George (Travis Fimmel) swooped into the Evans household after Eugene’s dad lit out for Mexico in a fit of wanderlust. The titular dreamland is Eugene’s conception of the sun-soaked shores of the Gulf, an image that is meant to bond with Allison’s mad dash for freedom.

This theme doesn’t work out — and, in fact, sinks the whole thrust of the movie. Outlaw stories are best when the bandits are on the run; indeed, some of the few moments of intrigue in “Dreamland” occur in the last 20 minutes, by which time Eugene and Allison are on the lam. Before that, however, the film is mostly about a pair of people who may or may not be on the run sometime soon.

That is not exactly a recipe for dramatic tension; it’s more a formula for boredom. Despite Robbie’s considerable efforts, boredom is the chief characteristic of “Dreamland.”

My Rating: 3/10

“Dreamland” is available via digital on-demand services.



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