“No, no, if it falls over, he’s in the real world. If it keeps spinning he’s dreaming.”
“So was he dreaming?”
“No, he wasn’t, it was real.”
“No, it wasn’t really real.”
I didn’t just hear it in the parking lot after Inception ended. It went on and on. For days, at my jobsite’s morning meeting, the first order of business was who had seen Inception last night and what they thought, who was definitely seeing it tonight, who was thinking of seeing it this weekend, and who saw it in IMAX. There was a wild rumor that one co-worker had plopped down into his seat and promptly drifted off, unconscionably missing the entire thing. Posts in my Facebook feed announced friends’ second and even third trip to view the movie – a phenomenon I had previously noticed only with Twilight-obsessed moms.
I have always thought too much about dreams. Like most people, my husband will occasionally wake up in the emotional grip of some particularly bizarre or troubling dream, but he claims that he seldom remembers his dreams. I envy him. The earliest dream I can remember was a nightmare I had at about five years old. I followed a line of my stuffed animals leading mysteriously to the doghouse, but when I peeked inside, a real lion roared in my face.
There are the multi-layered dreams, where I wake up again and again before I actually wake up
(perhaps Chris Nolan has been snooping around in my head). After layers of a particularly addling one as a child (giant centipede crawling through hole in the wall), I finally woke up for real and went to ask my mother if I was speaking to her in real life. She said of course I was. And then I woke up. Worst dream: buried alive in my own front yard. Best dream: biked the entire Caribbean and then swam with humpback whales. Most surprising dream: a Tyrannosaurus Rex was chasing me around a huge 19th-century mansion, but when it finally trapped me on the grand staircase, it gave me kiss instead of eating me. Nowadays, it’s the usual vivid bizarreness (demon in a bureau stole my car keys) interspersed with my recurring dream, which I call the “dropped the ball” dream. This takes place on some kind of sprawling college campus, where I suddenly realize that I’ve been enrolled in a class for several weeks without doing any of the reading, going to class or buying the textbook. I can’t even find the classroom. In a variant on this dream, I suddenly realize I agreed to feed someone’s pets, and then forgot all about them for a week.
Inception, while unfailingly interesting, wasn’t nearly as much of a nail-biter as my own dreams. I thought Ellen Page of snarky Juno fame really held her own with all those megawatt boys, and Marion Cotillard was as subtly sinister as she was fragile and alluring. Watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt stack the other actors, floating like the half-sunk pool toys my mother’s dog craves, in a zero-gravity hotel room may have been worth the price of admission on its own. And for its ethereal mental-world theme, Inception packs some bone-smacking violence and elemental collisions. And given that the vast majority of the film is successfully devoted to the execution of planting an idea rather than stealing it, the essential opening set-up of the idea of dream espionage is remarkably elegant, not adding undue length to the film.
But the ladies in front of me on the train last week may have hit the nail on the head better than anyone else. “Oh, I liked it,” they said. “Oh, yes. I didn’t really follow what was happening, I mean I couldn’t really figure out what the sequence of it all was, but he was very good in it. I really liked him.” Which one was “he”? Does it matter?
“Dear Joseph Gordon-Levitt,” a friend opines on Facebook. “You were so incredibly adorable in Inception…your fancy clothes were too much to deal with. GOOD LORD you are cute. SWOON.” Let’s stop going on about the filmmaker’s vision and the movie’s mind-blowing plot layers and acknowledge what this movie really is: a man smorgasbord which may be unprecedented in the entire history of film.
I have to admit, I am glad to see that Leo has maintained a presence in my life years after the tear-soaked sleepovers to watch Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet on VHS. However, I’m a little worried about how lined DiCaprio’s face looks compared to the tanned and cherubic Jack Dawson onboard the Titanic, because this suggests that a worrying number of years have elapsed since my teens. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has matured nicely into lanky, understated good looks (given sleek advantage in the dark suits which overwhelm my friend) from his overly-coiffed days on Third Rock from the Sun. Cillian Murphy has got strange eyes, but there is something arresting about his face. Ken Watanabe is the undisguised object of a shameful excess of Memoirs of a Geisha viewings in my apartment. And then there’s Tom Hardy, whom I first met as Heathcliffe on Masterpiece Theatre. Out of all of Inception’s delectable gentlemen, Hardy has the special distinction of having sojourned in one of my dreams, which rarely seem to have any basis in anything I’ve actually seen or done. It’s none of your business, but Tom Hardy and I were on a field trip, kissing in the back of the school bus. If my husband reads this blog, I will answer for this, but if he doesn’t, you won’t tell him, will you?
Of course, many people will laud Inception for more than its handsome movie stars. They may cry that Chris Nolan has given us something never seen in the world of cinema. To this, I would just like to say that the scene in which our heroes assault an inscrutable snowy bunker with all sorts of ropes and scruffy-yet-futuristic vehicles and grenades while battling faceless, easily vanquished soldiers, is exactly what would have happened if the climactic Forest Moon of Endor battle scenes from Return of the Jedi had been moved to the ice world of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. Guard your dreams, George Lucas. And why does Chris Nolan seem to think that planting an idea in someone else’s head is an extraordinary, innovative feat? I thought the only way to get a man to do anything was to make him believe he thought of it himself. Women have been doing this for centuries without the risky, fantastical mental labyrinth of shared dreams.
When I went to bed after watching Inception, I have to admit that I was curious what my dreams would be. Well, my husband and I were driving through some kind of wasteland decimated by a deadly virus (sort of The Stand meets 28 Days Later). A highlight included a pet store full of quarantined children who were turning not into zombies but into flesh-eating white rabbits (very Rabbit of Caerbannog, come to think of it). As if this weren’t bad enough, there were also Bigfoots taller than telephone poles on the loose. My husband had the perversity to get out of the car and for no earthly reason lie down in the middle of the empty road. I pleaded desperately with him, knowing that if a giant Bigfoot were to come along, he’d be smashed like a caveman in a Gary Larson panel. He finally acquiesced and we drove to my parents’ house, which, we were glad to see, had a Bigfoot and white rabbit-proof underground bunker identical to the Restricted Housing Unit of a maximum security prison. I decided to lay out a celebratory buffet of vegetables in the dining room, and then was surprised to realize that I had two children in the backyard, where, to my horror, a Bigfoot had appeared. But he didn’t squash the children – they were all dancing the Hokey-Pokey (or was it the Macarena?) together. Now if all of this was not the product of my very own mind, I’d like to know who is responsible.