Sex, Lies and Paranoia
Do you really know your wife, your partner, that significant other in your life, do you know what they do while you're about your daily business, do you trust them or do you become suspicious, wondering whether all is as it seems. That pretty much sums up "Dream Lover" starring James Spader and M√§dchen Amick, an at times clever thriller about marital trust yet also at times a little weak and contrived thriller which struggles to fully command your attention, except when it tries to become erotic with nudity and sex scenes.
Having just gone through a painful divorce successful architect Ray (James Spader - Bad Influence) finds himself being encouraged to get back out there by his friends showing him the positive sides of being single. But when he meets Lena (M√§dchen Amick) all the misery the divorce caused is soon forgotten as he falls head over heels for the mysterious beauty. Having quickly married and started a family, Ray starts to become suspicious of Lena wondering if he really knows who his new wife is especially when a series of strange occurrences happen to raise his doubts even more.
For the first half an hour of "Dream Lover" it hurriedly works its way through a set up as the main characters Ray Reardon, who looks nothing like the snooker player of the same name, and Lena Mathers meet, end up in the midst of an expected sexual relationship, remember this is a James Spader movie, and then end up married with what seems like a happy marriage. I say that it's rushed but in a way it works, that initial meeting between Ray and Lena and the subsequent one just a week later leading to his fascination with this startling beauty works well. As do other scenes such as when Ray's friend Norman ominously asks for a loan, it seems insignificant but later on comes back to lead you into an assumption.
The second part is where "Dream Lover" works its way through this tale of mistrust as Ray becomes increasingly suspicious of his wife leading to an almost state of paranoia. It's quite clever because it makes you question even the most insignificant moment in their relationship wondering whether it is just jealousy caused by having a sexy, hot wife or in the scene in a restaurant when a stranger called Lena by a different name is in fact a ghost from her past telling the truth. It's clever enough that it makes you look at your own relationships, causing you to question how much you really know about your other half.
Although saying that it's clever is fare "Dream Lover" is also contrived and when Ray confronts Lena with certain things he discovers, such as returning home with her parents, it borders on the unbelievable. It fails to resonate the realism that you would expect, such as Lena's coolness towards Ray when she discovers him going through her purse or accusing her of having an affair. All of which makes it lack the tension and drama which these scenes scream out for.
What it's also lacking is passion in particular in the sex scenes, which feel like they have been included in an obligatory manner because it's a James Spader movie from the early 90s. This means we do get a naked M√§dchen Amick straddling James Spader in the midst of sexual throws and coyly walking away displaying her naked body in a seductive manner but it feels lifeless. Compared to "White Palace" which Spader made with Susan Sarandon a few years earlier it is limp, manufactured and lacking the steaminess which the sex scenes required.
Of course by nature "Dream Lover" builds upon Ray's suspicions leading to the climax which is again contrived but also sadly drawn out. Without revealing anything it's wrong, it's not what you expect and just doesn't work in the context of the story, or at least not in a believable way. Talking of which the various dream like sequences where Ray is visiting a circus which act as his subconscious are a little too surreal for the movie. They are designed to give clues to Ray's paranoia over Lena but they are out of kilter with the rest of the movie, too fantasy like to work.
As for the performances well James Spader plays another variation on the successful good looking guy which he seemed typecast in during the early 90s and although he's by no means as arrogant as some of the characters he played it is all very familiar. Not that it's a bad thing because Spader is very at home playing this sort of character. Opposite Spader is the sexy M√§dchen Amick who plays the seductive part of her character brilliantly, but then suffers during those moments where the storyline becomes too contrived turning her character of Lena into an overly icy woman, almost pantomime like in the way she changes.
What this all boils down to is that "Dream Lover" on one hand is quite clever, it's a decent idea for a movie about marital mistrust but over does things by becoming too contrived. It lacks the believability which the storyline deserved turning to theatrics to try and create a clever ending. It also suffers from being a bit cliche with the almost obligatory sex scene but manages to keep you interested despite lacking the tension and passion that the storyline deserved.