25th Aug2020

Fantasia 2020: ‘Dinner in America’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Emily Skeggs, Kyle Gallner, Lea Thompson, Brian Andrus, Shelby Alayne Antel, Sophie Bolen, Gary Brunner, Nick Chinlund, Kristin Condon, Lena Drake | Written and Directed by Adam Carter Rehmeier

Written and directed by Adam Carter Rehmeier (The Bunny Game), Dinner in America is the tale of Patty (Emily Skeggs) and Simon (Kyle Gallner), the latter of whom is a punk rocker, and the former, a female fan obsessed with his band. The two, against all odds and types, fall in love, and drift around the suburbs of the midwest. It’s a love story, but it’s also full of punk-rock indie sensibilities, with an edge that makes it feel unpredictable but still charming.

I was intrigued both by the story itself and the main cast, with Gallner, whom I am familiar with from his roles in the likes of American Sniper and Dear White People, to Skeggs herself, and names like Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) in roles I wasn’t expecting. It’s well-cast and the script is interestingly penned, bringing you into the curious relationship between Simon and Patty, a relationship that is strangely sweet in its own way.

Exploring family, love and the attraction of opposites, Dinner in America is a funny coming of age tale with a killer punk soundtrack to boot. The awkward girl meeting and falling for the volatile Simon is something new for a romantic comedy, it brings something fresh to the table without being too far gone into weird territory. Whether it’s a dinner party gone-way-too-sexual, or bullying on a bus, the tale of these misfits is explored in this small random Michigan town and the whole thing does work as a study of these characters, though there’s little going on beyond them, really. It’s a tale of two, and I was okay with that.

Dinner in America is sparky and unique and I had a lot of fun watching it, and while there are certainly elements I wasn’t as fond of, and thought it tended to be a touch sluggish on occasion, I still found the cast and writing and the ballsy sense of humour to really bring the whole thing up a notch. There’s an undeniable unlikeability when it comes to many of the characters though, which can be testing, but if you manage to find the humour and charm in that, then I imagine you’ll find plenty to attach yourself to in Dinner in America. A love and connection between two people pushed aside by society is something many people can associate with, and that is one of the positive points here, that relationship between Simon and Patty that exists at the heart of the film is done so bloody well, it’s pretty much impossible to dislike. Good stuff.

***½  3.5/5

Dinner in America screens as part of this years Fantasia Festival which takes place August 20th – September 2nd 2020.


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