Audrey (Agnes Bruckner) has a grief-ridden, alcoholic father and a friend who may be dying, but she's too busy mothering people to live out her dreams. Then when Mookie (yes, Mookie, played by Justin Long, the cool guy in those Mac commercials) moves in among the dusty mobile homes, the sides of a love triangle align. First Audrey sets up her friend Calista on a date; soon, inevitably, she wants some of that Mookie-sugar for herself. She won't get any help from Dad (John Corbett), who slumps all day in a beer-induced stupor, chain-smoking in front of the TV.
First-time director Jason Matzner knows how to pace a film, punctuating moments both quiet and emotionally explosive with D.P. Jonathan Sela's incredible shots of the New Mexico sky. Those landscapes create a motif of beauty that's seemingly within reach, if only Audrey and her dad could escape their depression.
As Calista, Kelli Garner (who's blonde and gorgeous, so of course she's the one with the life-threatening disease) isn't up to the demands of plausibly enacting soul-searing decisions. And it doesn't help the movie's realism that Long's character supposedly has a UNLV basketball scholarship: He's a 5-foot-9 white guy with the jump shot of a fifth-grader. On the other hand, Corbett -- unshaven, glassy-eyed, hopelessly in love with his dead wife -- demonstrates acting range beyond his Northern Exposure and Sex in the City roles.
Dreamland is too tidy a film, with its main characters triumphant, but it's a pleasant foray into lives that tilt toward quiet desperation. Still, it feels manipulated, formulaic. If Matzner and writer Tom Willett had made different choices -- addicts who overcome their obsessions temporarily, only to relapse; more subtlety about the one-person, one-problem-to-solve structure; girls without centerfold bodies -- their movie could have been a vivid full-color dream. (Rated PG-13)