Sunday, February 2, 2020

Sundance with Abe: Dinner in America

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.

Dinner in America
Directed by Adam Carter Rehmeier
U.S. Dramatic Competition

There is a wide spectrum of behavior practiced by families, clearest most when everyone is seated around the dinner table. There are those who, for example, use cloth napkins, eat politely with no distractions, and refrain from the consumption of drugs and alcohol while also abstaining from the use of foul language. Others have the television on, shout and swear at each other, and rarely have a calm experience that doesn’t end with a shattered dish or a broken heart. Having the two encounter each undeniably leads to interesting things.

Angry punk rocker Simon (Kyle Gallner) emerges from a test study and wastes no time in nearly breaking up a family and setting their lawn on fire. On the run from the police, he encounters Patty (Emily Skeggs), a highly impressionable outcast who has just been fired from her job and is happy to help Simon find somewhere to lay low. As he spins a tale about missionary work in Africa to convince her gullible parents, Simon learns more about his host, who it turns out harbors a love for the masked singer whose secret identity is none other than Simon himself. Though they’re nothing alike, they find surprising common ground and help each other become better through a series of wild experiences.

There is an aggression that follows Simon everywhere he goes, and a furious musical beat that introduces his volatile tendencies. Patty, whose parents tell her to “take it down a notch” when she seems even mildly upset and who is frequently mocked by others who perceive her as slow, is so fascinated by Simon in a nonjudgmental way, making both of them more vulnerable since he tells her what he’s planning and she’s along for the ride without any true concept of what’s coming. Much of what occurs in this film is extremely irreverent, but there’s a serious appeal to this unusual story of friendship and highly unlikely romance.

Gallner, who sports an uneven haircut that merits comments from multiple people he encounters in the film, brings a fantastically immutable rage to Simon, who is endearing despite the fact that he tears down - and often beats up - pretty much everyone he meets. Skeggs brings a sensitivity to Patty that makes her gradual buildup of self-confidence all the more terrific. They’re a superb duo, guided well by the vision of writer-director Adam Carter Rehmeier. This is an inarguably strange film, but it’s one that manages to make its content work, against all odds.


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