May 27th, 2022
MOVIE: DINNER IN AMERICA
STARRING: KYLE GALLNER, EMILY SKEGGS, PAT HEALY, MARY LYNN RAJSKUB, LEA THOMPSON
DIRECTED BY: ADAM REHMEIER
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Dinner in America is about obscure people, living in a world that’s just not built for them. They are the people that life pushes down and forgets, like a bully stuffing them into a locker, and leaving them there in self pity. They’re the underdogs. The misfits of the world. Director Adam Rehmeier’s dark comedy is part fantasy, part condemnation for the state of our country, where all the characters are uniquely drawn, like a Mike Judge comedy, and within that characterization is the truth. It’s also a romance, about two people finding one another, no matter that they’ve been pushed down. Similar to the two lead characters, Dinner in America is part in your face, part sweet, and deep down has a heart of gold.
The opening of Dinner in America is a shock to the system with the sound of a loud distorted bass and a closeup of Simon (Kyle Gallner). We meet him at a drug testing facility, drooling, and barely able to keep his head up. This is how he’s making a buck and he connects with fellow test subject Beth (Hannah Marks). She invites him over for dinner, where Simon meets her dysfunctional family- which includes Lea Thompson as the mom looking to play Mrs. Robinson- and the interaction is as quiet as a sledgehammer hitting a frying pan. Simon’s attitude is “burn it all down”, a rebel, and rock musician going wherever his angst takes him. He soon runs into Patty (Emily Skeggs), a loner, obsessed with rock music, and sending racy polaroids to her rock star crush. She decides to help Simon hide from police, inviting him over to be with her family- Pat Healy, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Griffin Gluck make up her hilariously oblivious family. What proceeds is the couple becoming their own punk Bonnie & Clyde, getting revenge on a few bullies in town, confronting Simon’s stuck up family, and putting down a banger song. By the end, it’s impossible not to be won over by these two.
The style and direction from Adam Rehmeier is talented, crafting what feels like Heathers mixed with Queen & Slim, but there’s more obvious inspirations from a movie such as True Romance. It’s a universe that is slightly rooted in reality, where the dialogue is ironic, and the eccentricities of characters creates a uniqueness. Where the first half will catch you off guard with it’s obscurity, the second half will catch you off guard with its earnestness. It becomes a bit of a coming of age, a transformation for Patty, who has a timid personality and looks like a live-action Velma from Scooby-Doo. She breaks free with her ability to stand up to Simon’s family, telling his sister off, and showing everyone that she has a voice. Once the two of them reveal that they have a connection with music and the courage to stand up for themselves, that is when Dinner in America becomes a perfect meal.
What works best with Dinner in America is that Rehmeier stays committed to his dissection of American suburbia. Nobody could claim the title is wrong, as a majority of the conversations take place at the various dinner tables, as we see different versions of the nuclear family. Simon’s family is the wealthy group, claiming that their son is doing drugs without proof, while Patty’s family has a distance from their children, unable to connect. Outside of the well established themes, it’s the final act where the charm of Patty and Simon blossoms, as they decide to lay down a track, writing a song that is an instant hit. It blindsided me with great delight and leaves you glowing at what Dinner in America is serving.
DINNER IN AMERICA IS PLAYING AT SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY MAY 27TH, 2022.
Written by: Leo Brady