In Dreams

on January 15, 1999 by Melissa Morrison
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   Beware the month of January, when studios unload their high-profile dreck the way some factories release chemical waste into winter streams. The makers of "In Dreams"--namely the usually exceptional Neil Jordan ("The Butcher Boy")--had good intentions, but something went awry. This horror tale of a Massachusetts mom, Claire ("The Siege's" Annette Bening), who finds herself channeling the thoughts of a child-killer ("Two Girls and a Guy's" Robert Downey Jr.), is dressed beautifully in atmospheric light and flourishes. Visually, it's classes above the kind of B-movie trifle it is. Jordan, who co-wrote the script in addition to directing, seems to have wanted the plot to mean more than a vicarious thrill ride by wrapping the audience so completely in Claire's anguish. The results, though, are claustrophobic and overwrought, with Bening shrieking like a nutcase while violin music storms over the soundtrack.
   The other actors are misused, including Aidan Quinn ("Practical Magic") as Claire's disbelieving husband, and Jordan staple Stephen Rea ("The Butcher Boy"), who, based on the slightness of his part as Claire's psychiatrist, seems to be here solely as a favor to the director. Downey Jr. doesn't manage the chilling bizarreness of Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs," which this movie resembles in its pedigreed cast and psycho-killer territory. Jordan tries so hard to make "In Dreams" scary, and its heroine isolated, that it loses credibility; if it were simply a good, gory popcorn muncher, that wouldn't be as much of a sin. But the heartening, nuanced touch he brought to movies like "The Crying Game" and "Michael Collins" somehow gets lost under the gushing blood and Downey Jr.'s wig. Starring Annette Bening, Aidan Quinn and Robert Downey Jr. Directed by Neil Jordan. Written by Bruce Robinson and Neil Jordan. Produced by Stephen Woolley. A DreamWorks release. Rated R for violence/terror and language. Running time: 95 min
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