Unreal Estate

Dream House: written by David Loucka; directed by Jim Sheridan; starring Daniel Craig (Will Atenton), Rachel Weisz (Libby), Naomi Watts (Ann Patterson), and Elias Koteas (Boyce) (2011): A talented director (Sheridan directed Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot) and a solid cast result in a major stinker. Studio tampering fingerprints this production, though I’m not sure how much better the film would have been without interference. The grim lifelessness of many of the scenes doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the whims of focus groups.

Daniel Craig quits his job and moves his family (a wife and two daughters) into a dream house in a small town. He’s going to write a novel. But a family was murdered in that house, a fact the real-estate broker didn’t tell Craig. The father apparently killed the mother and two girls but got shot in the head by the wife in the process, a head wound that put the father into a mental asylum for five years. But now the father’s out, never convicted of the crime. And a mysterious watcher lurks outside the windows at night, scaring Craig’s wife (Weisz) and children. A divorced neighbour (Watts) seems to know more than she’s telling.

And then, 45 minutes in, the movie implodes with a twist that really needed a lot more build-up. The movie wanders off into the woods, bumping into trees. There’s a half-hearted attempt at another twist in the final scene, though the scene is ambiguous enough to explain away as just another plot development and not another reversal.

You can at least add Dream House to that long list of films in which fire is only dangerous if it actually touches you, even when it surrounds you. These movies exist in a universe in which air doesn’t transmit heat, and what a marvelous universe that would be.

Craig acts a lot like late-career Harrison Ford here, joyless and withdrawn. He looks like he’s ready for a brawl with the key grip at any second. Watts’s character seems to have had all her character-development scenes edited out of the movie: she’s all plot device. Weisz is fine in a thankless role as a loving yet sexy wife. Sheridan pretty much disowned this film, and I can see why — it’s not even bad in an enjoyable way. It induces 80% boredom and 20% rage. Avoid! Not recommended.

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