Dream House

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on August 16, 2012

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Dear Debra Gibson
Payroll Accountant

Dear Debra,

I want my money back. And I can't be the only one. Sure, building a Dream House is inevitably expensive, but how can Universal justify blowing $55 million on this stink hole? Selling out big name actors may raise the audience's interest rate in the short term, but that's no way to invest. Everyone loses in the end. I'm going to make it my personal mission to make sure no one else buys into this sub-prime endeavour.

There must have been early warning signs that this story was a fraud. First off, I can't imagine how this was pitched to people signing the cheques. The script begins as a sad exercise in exposition--half-hearted even for a story by the numbers. The set-up is agonizingly slow and also senselessly ambiguous about the genre. I assumed it was a haunted house story, but painful periods of time pass without anything super and/or natural happening. People ask impossibly misinformed and inane questions, which only pay off as we realize that the film is already artistically bankrupt. So maybe the pitch was just "think M. Night Shyamalan," and then hope studio execs haven't seen anything since The Sixth Sense.

I'm guessing, however, that you cut the crap and sold the dream. There's only one possible way talent and money were attracted to this mess--the twist. At exactly the mid-way point of the film, everything flips. Dream House goes from painfully dull and formulaic to what I'll graciously call "a premise with potential". Or maybe "a handy man's dream", as the classifieds trying to sell this off might say. But director Jim Sheridan feels way in over his head, without his oft collaborator Daniel Day Lewis there to bail him out.

Here's the whole blueprint: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and their two daughters move into a new house only to discover a family (with two daughters) was murdered there five years earlier. Murdered by… Daniel Craig! And the family he murdered was actually… Rachel Weisz and their kids! So now - follow me here - he's only imagining this happy life we've had to watch for half a film. He's having dreams, in a house! Get it? This is supposed to make up for all the cracks in the film's foundation until this point. So for the second half, we assume he was too crazy to be locked up, but maybe he was also wrongly convicted. And, let's not forget, he has a sexy neighbour in Naomi Watts who kind of "understands" him. That's a million dollar premise, right?

Maybe it could have been. But the bait and switch tactic is, what you might call, insolvent. By this point, so much bad credit has been accumulated by taxing dialogue, inflated pacing and default direction, that the damage is done. We're ready to just walkway and foreclose. Plus, the film still can't settle on being a detective story or psychological thriller, so it tries to hide in the margins. I appreciate the resistance to wait for a big last minute reveal, but instead we just want to forget we wasted so much on a hopeless investment.

So if you haven't yet seen the product of all your number-crunching yet, you can now just fast forward to the middle of the film, though this will only spare you half the disappointment. As a professional in these matters, I highly recommend you just cut your losses and declare the whole mess a write off.

Keeping you accountable,


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