"(PG-13) Three and a half stars
"Dreamland" is the name of a trailer park in the desert. Set aside any negative preconceptions you have about trailer parks, though, because this is a great place. The New Mexico skies are gorgeous, ranging from the expected rich blue stretches filled with puffy clouds to arrangements of lights, darks and colors over looming cloud banks so dramatic that they look like the renderings of a gifted artist on a romantic streak.
The desert is full of wide expanses of life and color, which will undoubtedly come as a surprise to those who still equate the word desert with sand, sand and more sand, interrupted only by cacti and the occasional coyote chasing a road runner.
All the gorgeous scenery could get to be too much, but it is offset just enough by the funky charm of the trailer park itself. Dreamland is a run-down facility enlivened by its accents — a patio decorated with a strip of colored flags, a building bordered with strings of small lights, just enough to stir up pleasant childhood memories of campgrounds.
The welcoming appearance and atmosphere of Dreamland is important, because the place is as much a star of the film as any of the actors or situations. This is a small movie about community. It works because it ambles along without making a big to-do about storylines, aware that the main pleasure is simply spending time as a silent member of such a picturesque and charming community.
Towards the end, the movie gets caught up in being a movie, fussing too much over some dramatic situations. Never mind, though, the machinations of the third act aren’t enough to spoil what comes before.
A little bit about the residents of Dreamland. Audrey (Agnes Bruckner) is a recent high school graduate who works at a nearby mini-mart. She periodically has what-the-hell sex with co-worker Abraham (Brian Klugman) and spends the bulk of her time taking care of people. She tends to her father, Henry (John Corbett), who has become agoraphobic since Audrey’s mother died, and her best friend Calista (Kelli Garner), who intends to seek fame and forture on the beauty pagent circuit. Calista was diagnosed with muscular distrophy a couple of years ago, and seeks uncoventional treatment for herself.
This being a movie and all, we know that, since Henry is agoraphobic, some situation will eventually arise that demands he go out into the world. And, since Calista has an illness, she will at some point have a medical crisis. But I’ve already warned you that the third act gets all conventional, so you should be ready when the time comes.
In the meantime, you can enjoy the love triangle between the girls and new arrival Mookie (Justin Long), a basketball player who moves to Dreamland with his ex-rock star mother, Mary (Gina Gershon), and her boyfriend, Herb (veteran heavy Chris Mulkey, playing a nice guy for a change). The love triangle is nothing remarkable — it just gives the kids something to do and allows for some nice make-out scenes.
About the cast: Of the adults, John Corbett is the only one who gets to do much. Thankfully, his bland performance as the husband-to-be in My Big Fat Greek Wedding is long gone and he offers an impressively naunced turn here. As for the young adults, the only face I recognized was Justin Long from Ed, one of several smugly cute cast members that drove me away from the TV series. He’s fine in this film, however, and so is Agnes Bruckner, Kelli Garner and everybody else, but remember, the star of Dreamland is Dreamland. Come on down, drink in the landscapes, spend some quality time with the locals and don’t let the plot hamper your vacation.