An entertaining and thought-provoking satire, California Dreamin’ takes the “strangers in a strange land” premise to new heights of creativity. It’s a brilliant look at how America is viewed through the eyes of other countries, and its humor is found in the differences between disparate cultures.
What could have been a typical fish-out-of-water film is really rather poignant and is brilliantly executed. In many ways this is an epic satire (154 minutes), which has a lot going on and a lot to say about cultures, love, and politics. California Dreamin’ may not be for everyone, but it definitely makes an impact.
Based on true events, Armand Assante gives a stellar performance as a U.S. Marine officer who finds himself and his fellow NATO soldiers’ train stranded in a small town in Romania. Why? The stationmaster refuses to let them through since they don’t have any papers. As the troops and Assante explore the small town, their own worldviews open up as they soon discover that the perceptions about America elsewhere aren’t exactly what they thought they were.
What makes the film bittersweet from the get-go is a tribute to the film’s co-writer and director Cristian Nemescu who died in a car crash while editing the film. This was Nemescu’s first feature film, and at 27-years-old he would have had a lifetime of filmmaking ahead of him. It’s sad when someone with so much talent and insight to give to the world leaves us too soon.
California Dreamin’ is an engaging political/cultural satire that is worth a look.