Thursday, April 21, 2016

Talking Tribeca: Dean

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 13th-24th.

Directed by Demetri Martin
Festival Screenings

It’s funny how many films there are about people struggling with writer’s block. The lack of material that a character can come up with often directly translates to plenty of inspiration for cinematic storytelling about that very thing. There’s an added tendency for the second work to be a particular challenge for writers, and that’s no different for those who create collections of drawn images. Dean (Demetri Martin) is one such artist whose life is headed nowhere as he contends with many missed deadlines, his father’s attempts to sell his childhood home, and the frightening allure of selling out.

Dean is a celebrated artist whose first book performed very well. The untimely death of his mother has greatly affected him, prompting little motivation on his part to do anything and to care about much of what is going on in the world. He took back the proposal he made to his girlfriend Michelle (Christine Woods), claiming that he only asked her to marry him to give his mother some hope about his future. By the time he serves as one of two best men at his friend’s wedding, there is little optimism left, which causes him to fly out to Los Angeles to be courted for a more regular collaborative gig. While that meeting is a bust, Dean’s chance meeting at a party with Nicky (Gillian Jacobs) starts to inspire some long-dormant enthusiasm within him and makes him question what he is doing with his life.

Comedian Martin has a certain way about him that makes him the perfect lead for this film, which he wrote and which also marks his directorial debut. It’s a very pleasant and entertaining experience watching Martin, who usually shows up in supporting roles as an eccentric oddball of some kind, get to take center stage in a story about navigating both adulthood and human relationships. Casting Jacobs as the object of his affection is a resounding success, since she proves to be alluring enough to entrance him and distant enough to not let him feel secure in their potential future happiness. Woods is a great part of the cast in a small role, and Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen occupy appropriate screen time as Dean’s widowed father and his new realtor love interest in a side plotline. This isn’t a perfect film, but it’s an endearing and enjoyable comedy that, assisted by some fun drawing-inspired visual aids, provides more than a few laughs.


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