Dream With The Fishes

on June 20, 1997 by Christine James
   Within about the first minute of the audience's introduction to Terry ("johns'" David Arquette), he has his pants around his ankles and is using binoculars to watch a neighboring couple's sexual encounter (which, to Terry's disappointment, is aborted before it climaxes). It's not exactly an endearing first impression, but it instantly reveals the lonely and pathetic life Terry leads and helps explain his suicide attempt that shortly follows.
   Terry tries to muster the courage to jump off a bridge; his appointment with death is postponed, however, when a young man named Nick (Brad Hunt)--coincidentally, the gent that Terry had been spying on earlier--intervenes. Nick, who has only a few weeks to live due to an unnamed fatal condition, offers to help Terry end it all in a less painful way if Terry will help him fulfill some of his lifelong fantasies. Among these aspirations are a nude bowling match with hookers; dropping acid while driving; a visit to an aquarium; naked armed robbery; and a return home to confront old passions and demons.
   Although "Dream With the Fishes" is based on an intriguing idea, is well-written and boasts many humorous moments, Terry is too repulsive and Nick is too much of a jerk for the audience to care about the fates of these two people. An interesting character study, the film would have been more memorable had the protagonists been more likable. Also, given Nick's live-on-the-edge personality, one would expect more meaningful or even just more interesting lifelong fantasies than doing things in the buff. The absence of a wide variety of wild activities underserves the construct.
   Cathy Moriarty has a fun role as Nick's cool ex-stripper aunt, and Kathryn Erbe is strong as Nick's long-suffering girlfriend, whose hard exterior barely disguises her vulnerability. And, despite their repellent roles, both Arquette and Hunt do great jobs in fleshing out their characters; as the more charismatic, commanding and off-kilter Nick, Hunt is a standout. Starring David Arquette, Brad Hunt, Kathryn Erbe and Cathy Moriarty. Directed and written by Finn Taylor. Produced by Johnny Wow and Mitchell Stein. A Sony Classics release. Drama. Rated R for pervasive strong language, some drug content and sexuality. Running time: 96 min.
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