Starring Daniel Craig, Rachel
Weisz, Naomi Watts
Last year I bought a house. I’m sure many of you have gone through the process dealing with paperwork, phone calls, headaches, the back and forth of bidding, home inspections, and a dozen other tedious tasks. We move into our dream house and start to deal with holes in the roof, exploding water heaters, painting every room, and a hundred things that never caused worry as a renter. But no matter how long and arduous buying a home is, and no matter how frustrating the experience, it pales in comparison to the experience of sitting through the new movie “Dream House.”
Daniel Craig is a real creepy dad. That’s the first thing I realized in “Dream House.” I liked Daniel Craig when he first came on the scene. He’s a very capable actor with a kind of cold, chiseled, no-nonsense sensibility. I loved him in films like “Road to Perdition,” “Layer Cake,” and he seems perfectly suited to play a bigger-than-life character like James Bond. He’s made a career of playing intelligent, imposing characters. “Dream House” is no different, but it’s a kind of bifurcated role that requires him to be morbidly dark and play the kind of unassuming everyman. He’s got “morbidly dark” down. He struggles a little bit like the unassuming everyman.
Craig plays Will, a New York publisher who gives up the rat race and moves his family to a quaint New England town. Once they move in, their normal suburban existence begins to turn increasingly sinister. Shadowy figures appear outside the house. Will finds strange writings on the walls. The locals talk about murders that happened there years ago—an entire family killed by a brutal, psychotic patriarch. It seems like Will’s dream house is anything but.
Oh, the irony.
Will begins to investigate the violent incident that plagued his house and the mysterious killer who is still lurking around town. As he digs deeper, he makes some unsettling revelations. It turns out the murderous psychopath who butchered his entire family might actually be himself.
Whaaaaaaaaat? Did someone say “twist?” The audience is supposed to be shocked by this revelation, but it’s telegraphed so far in advance that the only people who should be surprised are the ones that fell asleep the first 40 minutes of the movie.
Shockingly, discovering that he may be an insane killer, with no memories of the events, turns Will a little nuts. He starts to unravel, as he realizes the family he’s been hanging with in the ‘burbs might just be figments of his imagination. While the twist is kind of obvious, it at least gets Craig to a deeper, darker place where he seems more comfortable as a performer.
There’s about half an hour in the middle of the movie where things show the promise of becoming something more than a by-the-book psychological thriller. But they quickly disintegrate into a plot so convenient that it could be packaged in plastic and sold in the impulse aisle of the supermarket.
There are so many groan-inducing moments in “Dream House.” Jim Sheridan as a director is hit or miss. He’s capable of making great movies like “In America,” and he can churn out a complete pile of excrement like “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” “Dream House” is not a complete disaster, but it’s damn near close. Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts are such great actresses, given almost nothing to do other than spew shrill exposition. Their talent, and the talent of everyone else involved is totally wasted. Daniel Craig is having a rough year. He seems hell-bent on playing the traditional leading man in sub-par fare like “Cowboys and Aliens.” Some actors just aren’t destined to be traditional.
I remember watching another actor with similar sensibilities, Clive Owen, making the same kind of effort in shitty little thrillers like “Derailed.” Like any other profession, actors have to know their strengths and their weaknesses. Daniel Craig is many things, but traditional is not one of them.
“Dream House” reminded me of a really awful thriller, “The Number 23.” There’s the same kind of unintelligent narrative, the same lack of tension, the same ridiculous twists posing as plot points. “Dream House” is the cinematic equivalent of a crib sheet where bits of other movies have been sloppily scribbled and copied, unable to produce a single thrill or memorable moment.