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A dreamy coming-of-age tale doesn't quite grow up

"Dreamland" is a coming-of age drama about a beautiful young woman living in a beautifully shot trailer park while coming to grips with her future, and it's as swoony and verbose and serious as an adolescent's journal entry. If you're young, the film may intoxicate you. If you're older, it may make you relieved you're no longer young.

Agnes Bruckner, the find from 2002's "Blue Car," plays Audrey: recently graduated, a gifted writer, terrified of moving on. She lives in the desert RV community of the title with her father , Henry (John Corbett), a grizzled, kindhearted wreck with his own fears (of going outside, in his case). Dreamland apparently has healing properties: Audrey's best friend, Calista (Kelli Garner, Faith Domergue in "The Aviator"), has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but seems to keep the disease at bay by not straying too far from home.

No one really has to say "All I want to do is stay in Dreamland forever" for us to understand what's going on here, but they do anyway. Audrey has a box full of college acceptances she's not responding to; she defines herself by what her father and her friend need from her. That includes Mookie (Justin Long), a shy high school hoops star with whom both she and Calista are infatuated. A romantic triangle arises, punctuated by alarming readings of Audrey's verse.

It's the kind of movie where every shot takes place at magic hour -- sunset or sunrise -- where the local mailman (Luce Rains ) is named Dreamer, and where Mookie's mother (Gina Gershon) is a former rock star who got stage fright. Gershon is a bright spark in her few scenes; you sort of wish the movie were about her.

Not that Bruckner or Garner are bad as the two gently rivalrous best friends -- simply that Tom Willett's overwritten dialogue defeats them. Both actresses commit themselves to their roles to the point where you may actually believe two young women this intense and this stunning could be found in a desert dead-end. Long is less lucky; he's no one's idea of a basketballer and the girls are much more interesting than he is.

"Dreamland" is precious and very, very earnest, but it also has the good will to like all of its characters, even Abraham (Brian Klugman ), Audrey's knuckleheaded friend-with-benefits. First-time director Jason Matzner is trying to isolate a very particular moment in a young person's life -- the between-time, after childhood and before everything else -- and he pumps up his movie with poetry, straining for effect. Ordinariness has its own poetry, of course, but maybe you have to stick around for a while to see it.

Ty Burr can be reached at

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