‘Magazine Dreams’ Review – Sundance 2023

Magazine Dreams: Directed by Elijah Bynum

SYNOPSIS: A Black amateur bodybuilder struggles to find human connection in this exploration of celebrity and violence.

I haven’t seen a single 2023 film up to this point and decided to wait for the Sundance Film Festival to get started. This was the film I decided to start off my Sundance 2023 experience. There were a few reasons for this apart from the obvious killer performance from Jonathan Majors. It was by far one of the most hyped up premieres at the festival by far and it has received various mixed reviews, but overall very positive for one reason or another. Safe to say this was by far one of my most anticipated films of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

Everyone is going to talk about Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania or Creed III this year, but THIS is the defining role for Jonathan Majors. Majors does something here that is otherworldly and unlike anything I have ever seen before. He brings both a subtleness but also electricity to the role of Killian Maddox. He is both a shy man struggling with his mental health and also a charismatic and rageful bodybuilder that just wants to be loved and accepted. The performance is heartbreaking and at times hard to watch, because you feel so bad for his character. On the day that 2023 Oscar Nominations are released, I am already talking about an Oscar nominee for next year. It’s that good.

The writing on the other hand needs a bit of work. The story, with shades of both Whiplash and Taxi Driver, is very effective in making you feel both uncomfortable and also heartbroken. This is a tough watch, not staying away from uncomfortable conversations and topics. The potential is absolutely here. The problems lie in both the pacing and finale. The first half of the film gets you all in, the second half drags to a halt. You think you’ve reached the ending, but you’ve merely hit yet another stop on his story. That doesn’t make this bad though. While a bit uneven, the writing is extremely complex, especially when making the audience try and predict which road our main character was going to follow. I was thoroughly on the edge of my seat and rooting for Killian. 

The direction from Elijah Bynum is stellar, bringing such a delicate nature to each scene. Even when things are getting fiery, they are always handled with a sense of grace. The cinematography is beautiful to look at along with the rest of the technical which is all solid. I do have to give a special shout out to the score, which was just stellar and perfect for each harrowing movement. 

FINAL: Magazine Dreams is not for everyone and will be an extremely hard watch for a lot of people, but the story is important and sad and harrowing. Jonathan Majors gives a career defining performance that should be considered a year from now. A heartbreaking story that continues to leave you in shock and heartbreak. A little uneven at times, but overall very solid.

Point Breakdown:

15 for Writing: 12

15 for Performances: 13

10 for Entertainment: 8

10 for Direction: 8

10 for Emotions: 9

5 for Cinematography: 4

5 for Score: 4

5 for Pacing: 3

15 for Technical: 12

5 for Rewatchability: 5

5 for Automatic: 5

Magazine Dreams: 83/100


Jack Lautaret is a Banana Meter approved film critic, Host of the Jack Lautaret YouTube Channel and writer for Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Online Film and Television Association. Twitter: @JackLautaret

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