Dinner in America
ATLAS INDUSTRIES (2020)
Director: Adam Rehmeier
Starring: Kyle Gallner, Emily Skeggs, Brittany Sheets, Pat Healy, Griffin Gluck, Lea Thompson
Fantasia Festival 2020 Selection
The movie that has me singing along to Living in America by James Brown, Dinner in America is Adam Carter Rehmeier’s punk rock rom-com and a love letter to the socially awkward amongst us. Kyle Gallner stars as Simon, a drug dealer, drug lover, punk rocker and a man full of anti-authority spirit, alongside Emily Skeggs’ Patty, an awkward pet store employee whose love of punk rock (and one punk in particular) literally leads her to orgasm, in a movie about finding yourself and making bonds in the unlikeliest of places.
Dinner in America is so cool it’s almost anti rom-com in its execution. When we meet Simon, he’s clearly not the most charming of people; he’s full of fury and has a penchant for pyromania (Initially, I struggled to connect with the character and feared for the movie). Patty’s introduction is no less memorable though, moshing around her bedroom to a local punk band before masturbating furiously over the experience. It’s hardly your typical rom-com set up or characterisations but that’s precisely why Dinner in America works so well, it’s not quite what we’ve seen before. Rehmeier doesn’t offer anything unique or original per se, however, he does offer a refreshing take on a genre that generally falls foul of cliché too often. When the pair stumble across each other as Simon is fleeing from a pursuing police car, the movie begins to move up a few gears as their chemistry begins to bloom and eventually blossom – fuelled by their love of music, want for rebellion and shared feelings of being the outcast. The two combine to create a wonderfully bonkers relationship that isn’t entirely unromantic, both characters are afforded arcs without falling into convention, but is undeniably infectious to watch. Gallner is superb as Simon, full of anger, brashness and plenty of fighting talk, he delivers an excellent and absorbing performance and the casting of Skeggs is pitch-perfect. Rehmeier straddled a line with her character throughout, at times she threatened to be portrayed as too daft and quirky, but thankfully Skeggs’ performance remained on the right side of kooky. Also, Lea Thompson in a supporting role as a cougarish mother was great to watch.
For a movie about music, Dinner in America is bursting with great songs that really compliment the scenes and add to the alternative, independent feeling and the song that Simon and Patty create together is straight-up awesome. The dialogue throughout is fine though the movie is packed full of comedy and some off-kilter gags (side note warning: it does deliberately veer into racist and homophobic territories at points owing to the time period the movie takes place in) and it looks great too, the journey through the American Midwest is captured sublimely by DoP Jean-Philippe Bernier.
Everything combines in Dinner in America to create a great, compelling and enthralling movie. It’s gross and charming, crass and beautiful. By the end, you’ll come to love Simon and Patty – you’ll be wondering where their stories and paths go once the credits roll (I know I certainly did). Stuffed full of comedy, empowerment, rebellion, great music and two excellent lead performances, Dinner in America thunders along with an energy that is very...well, punk rock in its execution.
August 22nd 2020