Margot Robbie is having a rough year.
After securing an undeserved Oscar nomination for Bombshell in January and stumbling through the misguided Birds of Prey the following month, the actress has added to her wildly inconsistent career with her turn in the lifeless drama Dreamland.
Little more than a white, sanitized, Great Depression-set remix of 2019’s mostly excellent Queen & Slim, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte’s film stars Robbie as Allison Wells, a fugitive bank robber who holes up in a rural Texas barn belonging to the family of Eugene Evans (Finn Cole, “Peaky Blinders”).
A young man obsessed with detective stories and escaping his boring, small-town life, Eugene is the ideal mark for Allison and, upon discovering her hiding spot, quickly falls under her spell and proceeds to perform dopey acts of loyalty to win her love.
So that screenwriter Nicolaas Zwart doesn’t have to develop more characters than he can handle, Eugene’s stepfather George (Travis Fimmel, Warcraft) just so happens to be the local lawman most obsessed with capturing Allison and — gasp! — has no idea she’s sheltered within sight of his very own bed.
Though the material is rote to a fault and bereft of surprises, Joris-Peyrafitte directs as if the Academy — or at least some midrange critics groups — might take notice. The visuals are consistently crisp, especially for a Dust Bowl setting, and whichever effects team designed the film’s big dust storm sequence should be recruited for the next big superhero flick.
But none of the technical achievements can compensate for Cole’s wet-blanket acting, Robbie’s odd lack of charisma and a script uninterested in sustaining viewer attention. All involved may think they’re adding something new to the long tradition of outlaw narratives, but at best they’ve merely cobbled together details from better films.
Available to rent starting Nov. 17 via Amazon Video, iTunes, and other streaming services