Audiences will never see the back of homeland Americana stories. Its fields have been ploughed to oblivion, upturning bountiful takes in search of that sweet success the American Dream is meant to provide. Such a broad topic and period will never run out of fuel, not when the likes of Dreamland can coax Margot Robbie to the centre of its plot. Depression-era ideals have been captured better elsewhere (see Of Mice and Men for an honest musing on farm life), but this piece from director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte struggles on with the usual cliché of a bank-robbing duo, on the run from the long arm of the law.
Up-and-comer Finn Cole stars as Eugene Evans, a country boy corrupted by the alluring charms of crime and companionship. He partners up with Allison Welles (Robbie), as the two set off on a country-wide crime fest. Such relationships require consistent and intricate build-up, Dreamland provides this surprisingly well. Whilst these opening calls of interest are tolerable, it drones on and on for far too long. Dreamland begins to bog itself down in introducing these characters to its audience, and before you know it the credits are rolling and Joris-Peyrafitte has spent all his time discussing amazing and intricate adventures, rather than showing them.
The work here of Joris-Peyrafitte leaves no mark on the world of filmmaking. No poignant point to make, not a single articulate bit of interest in sight. A shame, considering competency is a low bar to vault. The sub-standard dialogue he looks to peddle here is nothing of note or worth, just like the performances and flatlining direction that surround it. Robbie and Cole are fine, sweepingly underwhelming chemistry that sees the two bond, drift apart, and then return to their new equilibrium with passionless disinterest. Such a broadly jilted style of storytelling, one that will take these characters absolutely nowhere but down an incessantly trodden path. Innovation is nowhere to be found, instead it slathers the story on thick and prays to God that its audience doesn’t notice the lack of depth.
Dreamland suffers from far too much detail. It throws names, statements and ideas at its audience within its first act and expects viewers to cling to these details for the unexpected test at the end of it all. What reason do we have to care for the plot, though? There is no incentive, not from a creative standpoint anyway. As bland as the rural, dying fields that are shown so tragically, Dreamland isn’t sure what it wants to do with itself. Producing a story of runaway criminals in the latter days of the Roaring 20s should’ve proven a sure-fire hit, but those days of Bonnie and Clyde are all but over. A shambles, but one that has an endearing pair at the core of it, or at least, they’re likeable enough to stop audiences switching off almost immediately.