Documentary Review: ‘Dream Racer’

Review by Levi White

“We all have dreams, but many remain just that, dreams. Victims of inertia with the complacency of a scheduled tomorrow that never comes. What does it mean to step out and seize one from the ether? To hold it, stare it in the face and dare to live it?”

…my eyes can’t stop rolling.

Dream Racer is a failed attempt at an artistic documentary that covers more of the documentarian than its subject matter. The film is supposed to be about an aged Motocross rider that has put everything he has on the line to finally fulfill his ultimate dream, completing the highly dangerous Dakar Rally. Instead, the movie is about documentarian Simon Lee and his detest for the people involved in his beloved feature.

Watch as Lee belittles his own film by complaining into a camera, filling the screen with self-pity. The story’s supposed main character, Christophe, is an over-the-hill motocross racer that has found his dreams slip through his fingers, in the forms of a broken wrist and a pot belly. Christophe struggles to restore his body and his financial funds to enter the Dakar Rally, a 17-day race that covers a large portion of South America. After jumping through many hoops and scrounging up the necessary funds to enter, Christophe qualifies for the rally. The question is, will he succeed and capture his dream, or will the torturous terrain of the Dakar consume his spirit?

Christophe is an interesting man, he’s charming, starry-eyed, and also quite annoying with his persistence, as every dream chaser should be. But, Christophe takes a back seat to Lee’s own dream of creating an artistic and meaningful film. Lee also has put everything he has into the film, leaving his wife and two daughters back home so he can capture the essence of the Dakar Rally and its culture. This is where the film falls apart. The subject matter is interesting, the setting is new and mostly unheard of in the states, but its execution and narrative is tarnished by Lee’s vision.

If this film were to cover 3 or 4 other racers, perhaps it’s focus would be more tight. Or, cut it up into 6 15-minute episodes so each one can have its own theme. Instead, Dream Racer jumps all over the place: We’re meeting Christophe, now we’re hearing about Simon’s life after college, now there’s a kooky “petrol-head” who’s aggressive driving has Simon on edge, now there’s a break so Simon can say some Philosophy 101 tripe. The storytelling never allows the subject to soak in. The editing is too fast paced for the most part, creating a clunky narrative and absolutely dissolving a through-line. 30 minutes into Dream Racer and I felt like I was still watching a trailer for the movie.

The hook just isn’t there. I wish I could’ve walked away from Dream Racer saying I felt the struggle Christophe was going through. I may understand his struggle, but I didn’t feel a thing…maybe I’m too cold hearted.

The opening of the film sets up everything you need to know, Dream Racer is an examination of a man desperately chasing his dreams, directed, shot, and written by a self-important filmmaker who decides that his dreams are far more significant.

I’d love to learn more about Christophe’s story, or even the Dakar Rally for that matter. Perhaps another filmmaker will take a crack at it. Until then, we have Dream Racer.

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