While MovieWeb's page for The Dreamers displays the rated R version, my review is actually for the NC-17 cut of the film. I wouldn't want to watch it any other way then what the director intended. I am far from squeamish, so I wanted to see what could be so bad that it garnered an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. And I'll tell you now, the content I witnessed definitely made that NC-17 warranted lol. Not that it is extreme (nudity should NOT be as controversial as Americans make it out to be. So it's a naked body(s), so what, it's what we all have underneath our clothes), however, the ideas, and some actions in it, are definitely out there...
The Dreamers follows an American exchange student named Matthew, who is in Paris during the 1968 student rebellions against their government. However, this takes a backseat, however prevalent it is/was, to the very strange, sexual relationship he strikes up with French 'twins' Theo and Isabelle (Eva Green), who share his passion for classical movies and the cinema experience. While he and them take to each other almost immediately, Matthew slowly learns over the course of the movie that Theo, and more particularly, Isabelle, are far removed and disconnected from the reality of their time (concerning the rioting). *Spoiler* And while Dreamers doesn't explicitly show Isabelle and Theo engaging in sexual acts, it certainly hints quite strongly at the incestuous relationship they share, as we see them laying naked together on their bed, and the many other instances of them being too close for comfort by a brother and sister. This may also be why the movie gained an NC-17 rating, as the nature of their relationship is beyond taboo for many folks, and wouldn't sit well even with the most open (or should I say sick) minded individuals (I certainly had my issues with this).
Disregarding the controversial nature of the movie, though, Dreamers had a very strong chemistry between its leads. Eva Green gives a complex, mature and immature performance. What I mean by that, is that while she's great and believable, her character is severely immature and disillusioned to real life. There are many instances in the movie where she seems to be lost in one of her favorite movies instead of dealing realistically with what's going on around them, and it doesn't seem to compute in her mind that the closeness she has with Theo isn't healthy. I suppose then, that the name of the movie, The Dreamers, is very apt, as she certainly does a fair amount of just that, dreaming. Her brother on the other hand (Louis Garrel) seems to have a better character arc, as he at least seems to have some sort of grip on reality by the movie's end. It's not a positive grip, but at least it's rooted a little more in the realm of sanity then Isabelle. Michael Pitt's character, Matthew, was well played, as he reacts to the bizarre behavior of the twins in about the same fashion I imagine quite a few people would. Although, most people probably wouldn't stick around after seeing an adult brother and sister laying naked in bed together, or kissing in a not so friendly, familial sort of way lol.
The weakest aspect of the film was certainly Theo and Isabelle's parents. We see them near the beginning of the movie as they have dinner with the twins and Matthew, and then near the end after coming back from traveling. Both times I felt their presence was a bit forced and unneeded. If director Bernardo Bertolucci had cut out their scenes, I don't think the movie would have suffered from it. They could have just been mentioned by the twins, and that would have sufficed. However, even though I felt it was the weakest part of the movie, it was still leagues better with the acting and interaction then many dramatic films I've seen.
One of the more unique aspects of Dreamers is the splicing of real life footage/events (such as the riots), and the trio acting out scenes from their favorite films. There is a segment in it where they attempt to beat a record set in one of their classical movies (the French film Bande a part, by Jean-Luc Godard) to running through the entire Louvre museum under 9 minutes and 43 seconds, and as we see them running through it, the movie cuts to that film's footage of the trio from that movie doing the same thing. I found this made Dreamers more interesting and artful, definitely giving it its independent feel.
Much props to the costume designers and general look of the film, as well, as Dreamers does an efficient job of making you feel like it is 1968 Paris. Everything is old fashioned, between the furniture, clothes, the way their apartment is designed. I certainly felt like I was transported to a different time, so they succeeded with that area of the film. Some period pieces can fall apart if these aspects are not authentic looking, but Dreamers had no such problem.
Clocking in at a little under 2 hours, The Dreamers was a good, if a bit unnecessary film. By that I mean you can come away feeling that it was well acted and had a solid progression to it, but I didn't see much point to it other then showing the bizarre psychosis of incestuous twins and the awkward American student briefly caught up in their life and then just as quickly ejected as reality sets in and poor choices are ultimately made. I walked away from the film satisfied, but not as satisfied as I wanted to be. If you wish to see pretty much ALL of Eva Green, however, you will not be disappointed, as her body is shown graphically and thoroughly about halfway in and then throughout from there on. I haven't seen that much skin from an actress since Elizabeth Berkley in the notorious but naughtily entertaining Showgirls. At least Dreamers can make the claim of having a lot more substance to it then Showgirls, though :P
If you want to sate your independent tastes and enjoy Bertolucci's controversial style (see: Last Tango in Paris), or you just enjoy French dramas, you should definitely check The Dreamers out. Just don't watch it with anyone who is easily offended, as it is certainly an acquired taste.
Hope you've enjoyed my review! (All words, ideas are mine. Any similarities to other reviews is complete coincidence).