Truth. Lies. Whatever.
Some folks have been describing Dakota Skye as “Heroes meets Juno.” Have fun wrapping your head around that concept.
Seventeen-year-old Dakota Skye (Eileen Boylan) has a superpower. She can tell whenever someone is lying to her. After spending her life seeing the truth behind lies big and small every day, Dakota has developed a sour outlook on life. She goes through the motions, tolerating her friends at school, hanging out with rocker boyfriend Kevin (J.B. Ghuman Jr.), and basically not caring much about anything. Dakota’s world view is put to the test when she meets Jonah (Ian Nelson), who catches her attention by the fact that he never lies to her. Even when she tries prompting a lie out of him, he remains honest. The two start to fall for each other, keeping their romance secret from her boyfriend. How long can they keep up this deception? And is Jonah really that honest?
The gimmick here is that anytime someone lies to Dakota, we see a subtitle with the truth, representing how Dakota sees the truth in everything said to her. For example, when bowling with her boyfriend, he says to her “You’re getting better, babe,” while a subtitle pops up and says, “You suck.” Once Jonah shows up and starts spending more and more time with Dakota, the suspense builds, in that we in the audience hang on his every word, wondering when or if he’ll finally lie.
Looking past Dakota’s powers to Dakota’s borderline-bitchy personality, she might be hard for some viewers to relate to. She spends most of the movie in “poor me” mode, although she has a lot of freedom, a loyal best friend, and two studly older guys after her. Although she’s the hero, and we’re supposed to feel her heartache along with her, she comes off as so abrasive at times that I fear she might come off as too bitter and standoffish for audiences. The filmmakers argue that Dakota’s voiceover narration allows us to see through her outward snide to the genuinely kind person within, but whether that is successful is open to debate.
About that narration. I know many people out there feel that no movie should ever have a voiceover narration. When it’s used well, though, in cases like Fight Club and Arrested Development, it can become an integral and important part of the film. Early on, the narration in Dakota Skye works, in that it provides an efficient way to introduce Dakota’s power without having to drag viewers through a lengthy origin story. Then, when we meet Dakota’s annoying best friend, we don’t hear their conversation because the narration instead interrupts to tell us she’s Dakota’s annoying best friend. This scene, to me, would have been improved by dropping the narration, and letting the nature of their friendship come across through the dialogue. So the voiceover work at times and doesn’t at other times.
Despite the “girl with super powers” premise, this is a talky, relationship-driven movie. There are no crimes to solve, no end-of-the-world stakes, and the only battles to fight are emotional ones. There are a lot of lengthy dialogue scenes, with two or three of the actors bantering back and forth, making the entire film hang on the performances. The actors all fit their roles nicely, each with a certain type. Dakota is sarcastic and bitter, Jonah is sensitive and quirky, and Kevin is obnoxious and clueless.
There’s no explanation of where Dakota’s powers come from or how they work, so if you’re one of those Internet people who keeps saying thing like, “Everything in every TV show and movie must be absolutely realistic and follow all known laws of physics, and that includes SpongeBob,” then the superpower aspect of the movie might frustrate you.
The picture quality is quite nice, all the more impressive considering the movie’s low budget nature. The sound is good as well, especially when the occasional rock tune kicks in. For extras, the director and writer contribute a commentary filled with anecdotes from the shoot and some light self-mocking humor. The featurette and cast interviews add more glimpses behind the scenes. Some deleted scenes round out the package.
Dakota Skye is what it is—a low budget indie romance with a slight sci-fi twist. It won’t totally blow you away, but it is some pleasant watching.