Fantasia Film Festival Review: Dinner in America

Year: 2020
Runtime: 106 Minutes
Writer & Director: Adam Rehmeier
Stars: Kyle Gallner, Emily Skeggs 

By Mique Watson

Ever so rarely does a film so jaw-clenchingly vexatious on the onset ever end well for me. Writer-director Adam Rehmeier’s film began, and thirty minutes in I was cringing. We’re introduced to two vapid caricatures and we wince at the notion that we will have to spend nearly two hours with them as the story meanders listlessly. 

However, the two vapid–or so I thought–caricatures eventually meet up, and become the players of the biggest plot twist of 2020 so far: a film that I hated so much in its opening minutes ended up winning my heart in the end. Heck, it’s impossible to believe that this charmer came from the mind behind 2011’s exploitative “The Bunny Game”.

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Simon (Kyle Gallner) is a drug-dealing, punk rocking, profanity-spewing tool who is just begging for a nice slice of humble pie to just be handed to him (preferably with a fist swung to his kisser). He happens to be the anonymous lead singer (he wears a ski mask) of a semi-popular local metal  band which also happens to be the favorite band of Patty (Emily Skeggs). Patty has just been fired from her job at a pet shop, and is in desperate need of–as her mother puts it–a “purpose”. One thing leads to another–and by this I mean a cop chase sequence–and Simon finds himself in an unfazed Patty’s house. 

Slowly but surely, the two help each other out: he assists her in exacting her revenge on some local bullies, she helps him get his act together…and good grief is it all absolutely charming. Simon and Patty could’ve been so boring, but Rehmeier ensures that they’re nothing short of electrifying whenever they’re together. His screenplay is so precise and nuanced, that you almost forget how slur and profanity-laced the first act was; the tone goes from angry to charming with such earnest subtlety, it’s almost revelatory.  

“Despite a rough start, my only other contention would be a structural one. The film doesn’t feel like it flows into its third act, the conflict is lacking, and the middle feels too drawn out.”

Gellner plays Simon with the energy of a nuclear explosion; he has an unending supply of rage and belligerent testiness (the script does make use of some slurs to convey a better sense of who his character is–although this is a clear attempt at honesty, some might find it offensive). Heck, if this punk rocker wasn’t offensive and challenging, wouldn’t that be completely off-brand? Meanwhile, Skeggs has the wide-eyed, hopeful look that the president of a popular fandom would. Gellner and Skeggs are also surrounded with an incredible supporting cast.

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Despite a rough start, my only other contention would be a structural one. The film doesn’t feel like it flows into its third act, the conflict is lacking, and the middle feels too drawn out. The second act sort of abruptly ends when the film itself seems to have run out of ideas, and then everything sort of wraps up before you’re ready for it to be over. Boy oh boy, will you be wanting more from these two afterwards. The tale is not one that brims with originality, but it packs enough energy and charm to be worthwhile. 

3.5 stars

“Dinner in America ” will be showing at Fantasia Film Festival from 20th August to 2nd September.
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