Dream with the Fishes (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs up. Scoop's comments in white.

Dream with the Fishes is a pretty good movie. Inside of it, there is a great movie trying to escape. Because he is a first time writer/director crafting the one great story inside of him, Finn Taylor brought passion and humor and great empathy to the project. Because he is a first time director, however, he also brought a lot of inexperience to the table.

But that's OK. We all remember the fumbling sincerity of our first love much more tenderly than we recall the efficient lovemaking of our best sex. Taylor's first film is one to approach like a first love.

David Arquette plays a suicidal man standing on a bridge. Another man, Brad Hunt, walks by and tries to con Arquette out of his expensive watch. After all, if Arquette is going to be dead, he won't need the watch, and if Arquette jumps with the watch on, it will get destroyed by the river beneath. Arquette doesn't like the deal. Hunt mentions to Arquette that bridge-jumping is not a very good way to commit suicide, because he might just end up alive and in great pain. Hunt offers to assist with the suicide, and recommends pills. He has the pills Arquette wants, Arquette has the watch Hunt wants, and a deal is struck.


There's quite a bit of breast exposure from Kathryn Erbe, Katherine Copenhaver and Kristina Robbins, and brief flashes of male and female nudity from Brad Hunt and Katherine Copenhaver in the nude bowling scene.

Arquette takes the pills, but changes his mind and wants to live. That turns out to be just as well, because Hunt conned him into trading the watch for vitamin pills. From this bizarre beginning, an uneasy friendship is struck up between Arquette, a living man who wants to die, and Hunt, who turns out to be a dying man who wants to live. Hunt wants to get some kicks before he dies, so he talks Arquette into funding a fantasy road trip. After all, why does Arquette need money if he wants to commit suicide?

Hunt strikes another deal with Arquette. If Arquette still wants to commit suicide in a couple of weeks, Hunt will kill him before he dies himself. If not, Hunt will pay back the borrowed money by making Arquette the beneficiary of his life insurance. This time Arquette likes the win-win deal. They proceed to fill the next couple of weeks with a road trip filled with guns and cars and hookers and drugs. And nude bowling. And lots of surprises along the way.

Perhaps one of them will eventually help the other commit suicide. But which man will be in which role?

The script is filled with lots of details of plot and character, perhaps too many, but I never lost interest for a second.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1.

  • no real features except a rock video

If this 1970s-style movie had actually been made in the early 1970s, Jack Nicholson would have played the spirited dying man, Dustin Hoffman would have been the painfully shy suicidal guy, and the film would have been widely praised. Even lacking those great performers and wandering outside of its own time, Dream with the Fishes is still an engaging story which manages to find some warmth and redemption in a dark situation without resorting to excessive sentiment or melodrama.

I liked it. Director Finn Taylor's only other film is last year's Cherish, which is another film I liked quite a bit.


Dream with the Fishes (1997) is a buddy/road trip/dying man film that manages to avoid becoming a melodrama. As a matter of fact, it manages to move constantly in unexpected directions. Terry (David Arquette) is a loner, withdrawn from society, and a voyeur. He spends his off time watching neighbors through binoculars. Nick and Liz (Brad Hunt and Kathryn Erbe) live across the street, and have a very different problem. Nick is dying. Nick runs into Terry in a liquor store and follows him to a bridge, which Terry is planning on jumping from, but convinces him that sleeping pills are a much better answer, as some people survive the jump. When Terry changes his mind at the last minute, and goes to the hospital, he discovers Nick has given him vitamins. Furious, he confronts Nick, and they arrive at a bargain. Nick wants to live a few fantasies before he dies, and Terry has the money to afford them.

Among the fantasies is nude bowling with hookers, played by Kristina Robbins and Katherine Copenhaver. I don't want to write a spoiler, but the film manages to stay fresh and interesting, and all characters find some sort of redemption in the end. While neither lead is very likeable, we still somehow empathize with them.

The film was shot to be very grainy, probably to set the mood, but better cinematography would not have weakened the story for me. I detest dying man films, but enjoyed this one, which was far more interesting, as it focuses on the problems of living, rather than those of dying. C+

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed only $464,000, but the budget was only a million dollars.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C+ (both reviewers).

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