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Sundance 2023 Review: Magazine Dreams – “Serves as a warning as to how the pursuit of excellence can be the pathway to self-destruction”

Killian Maddox pursuit of becoming a world class bodybuilder comes at the expense of his mental stability.

Golden dreams of being a bodybuilding icon appearing at theatres across the world give way to a blue-collar garage that has been converted into a makeshift gym and photo studio.  Killian Maddox (Jonathan Majors) has to attend court-mandated therapy appointments caused by a volatile temper and a sense of paranoia which may be a side effect of depending upon steroid injections to maintain his precious physique.  There is a tender side that is reflected in his caring for his grandfather that coexists with a frustration that an idol never responds back to his letters.

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I am not sure what amount of training Jonathan Majors had to do but he certainly put in the time and effort to create a physique that could appear on the stage with other bodybuilders.  The music and the imagery have a lonely reflective quality with key dramatic shots being Killian walking down a long tunnel silhouetted and the extreme close-up of a needle giving a steroid injection.  A key narrative component is revealing the mental state of the title character by having him read the unanswered letters sent to his bodybuilding idol. This obsession is also demonstrated by pictures of his idol being plastered on the walls of his bedroom to produce a shrine of worship.

This is a difficult movie to watch as there can be no enjoyment to bear witness to someone’s mentality deteriorate because of an obsession to achieve perfection in their chosen profession. One cannot help but think of Black Swan and Perfect Blue with the latter inspiring the former.  Jonathan Majors definitely can convey much even when he has very little to say.  The sound design does a great job of demonstrating the conflict that exists in the mind of Killian as there are relentless voices driving him.  Unsure whether the story ends on a hopeful note but Magazine Dreams definitely serves as a warning as to how the pursuit of excellence can be the pathway to self-destruction when it becomes the only reason to exist.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19–29, 2023, in person and online, and for more infomration visit sundance.org.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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