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Review: Musician finds benefactor in personalized ‘Dreamland’

Johnny Simmons in the movie "Dreamland."
(Sam Raphael / Orion Pictures / Gunpowder & Sky)

Actor/musician Robert Schwartzman gets into the family business with his directorial debut, “Dreamland,” joining his uncle Francis Ford Coppola and his cousins Sofia and Roman Coppola in making his own stylish, deeply personal art-film. Schwartzman’s work isn’t as inspired as the best of his relatives’, but it does have a point-of-view.

Johnny Simmons plays Monty Fagan, a cocktail pianist who relies on his girlfriend and any other friendly face to stay financially afloat while he pursues his art. When he meets — and beds — a rich benefactor named Olivia (Amy Landecker), Monty upgrades to a ritzier lifestyle but finds himself still too dependent on other people, who have their own agendas and demands.

“Dreamland” dwells in classy nightclubs and swanky soirees, where working-class artists and the well-to-do interact. A terrific cast (which also includes Schwartzman’s brother Jason and their mom, Talia Shire) helps create a vivid world, on the fringes of showbiz.

But Schwartzman’s observations about music and money mostly stay locked in his head. “Dreamland” isn’t hard to understand by any means, but it does seem fairly negligible from moment to moment. Neither the situation nor the stakes are exactly life or death.

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What stands out then is the sense of place, which feels like it was drawn directly from Schwartzman’s own experiences as a musician and a child of a celebrity. He knows what he wants to show, if not yet what he wants to say.

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‘Dreamland’

Not rated

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Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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