In Dreams - * 1/2*

Director Neil Jordan takes a gamble and fails with his latest movie, In Dreams. He assembles a talented cast, and combines it with some superb camera work. But then he applies these paints to a fragmented and nonsensical story. Can a movie exist with style, but no substance? In Dreams is a convincing argument in the negative.

Claire Cooper (Annette Bening) has had psychic visions all her life, though she never knew what they meant. However, lately they’ve been getting much more disturbing, as she becomes certain that at least part of what she’s seeing involves a missing young girl.

The increasingly nightmarish visions are beginning to upset her husband, Paul (Aidan Quinn), as well. He begins to suspect his wife may slowly be going crazy. A psychiatrist, Dr. Silverman (Stephen Rea) suggests that she be hospitalized.

Claire, however, begins to suspect that someone is feeding her dreams. She fears that her psychic pen-pal may be a serial killer (Robert Downey Jr.), and that her visions are anticipating his actions.

In Dreams is wonderfully shot by cinematographer Darius Khondji. Haunting and evocative, the imagery of the film is easily the film’s strongest suit. The only flaw here is that the film is a little overreliant on a few questionable motifs (you won’t leave the theater craving any apples, that’s for sure).

However, there is not much behind this pretty facade. What starts out as a mildly interesting premise quickly becomes ludicrous as the film descends along its mindless path. Disjointed and confusing at times, In Dreams is like a bad dream itself. Full of none sequiturs and loose ends, just when you think the movie can’t make any less sense, it somehow surprises you.

There’s some good talent here, though, that gives the material a fair shot. Annette Bening makes the strongest impression with her descent into madness. Aidan Quinn is also notable as her beleaguered husband, yet the film doesn’t quite know what to do with his role. It tosses him a minor subplot early on, only to forget about it a few scenes later. Robert Downey Jr. is appropriately creepy as the film’s mysterious bad guy. However, his familiar character seems to be patched together from the assorted parts of serial killers of films past.

Despite the efforts of the cast, nothing can quite disguise the hollowness at the film’s center. In fact, it’s almost tragic that such good actors and imagery have been wasted on such a worthless movie.

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