The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Arrow/VOD] - DINNER IN AMERICA | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Arrow/VOD] - DINNER IN AMERICA

dinner in america review
A fugitive punk is taken in by a socially awkward young woman.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Adam Rehmeier

Starring: Kyle Gallner, Emily Skeggs, Pat Healy, Griffin Gluck, Lea Thompson, Mary Lynn Rajskub

dinner in america poster

Best known for his controversial "torture porn" 2011 directorial debut The Bunny Game, Adam Rehmeier reinvents himself with a charming coming-of-age comedy in Dinner in America. While his latest movie might be adorable, it's also confrontational, thanks to a protagonist who embodies exactly the sort of edgelord who might make a movie as shocking as The Bunny Game.

Also reinventing himself is Kyle Gallner, an actor I recall always being cast as Goth teens in horror movies a decade ago but whom I haven't seen onscreen in quite a while. He plays Simon, an angry young man who wanders the suburbs of Detroit getting into scrapes and avoiding the police. When we meet him first he's just been kicked out of a medical research study. Invited for dinner at the home of a fellow patient (Hannah Marks), he ends up seducing her mother (Lea Thompson) before setting the family's garden on fire and fleeing.

dinner in america review

When the nerdy Patty (Emily Skeggs) lies to the police about having seen Simon in the alley behind her place of employment, Simon takes advantage of her charity. Spinning a yarn to her parents (Mary Lynn Rajskub and Pat Healy) about having returned from missionary work in Tanzania, Simon temporarily moves into Patty's home, immediately introduces her kid brother (Griffin Gluck) to the joys of pot and sets about seducing Patty.

Like last year's Babyteeth, Dinner in America has its roots in Jean Renoir's 1932 comedy Boudu Saved from Drowning. It's another tale of a white bread suburban family finding themselves playing host to a young man who lives a precarious existence on the fringes of society. There's also a lot of Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66 here, with both Gallner's Simon and Skeggs' Patty broken from the same moulds as the angry anti-hero played by Gallo and the awkward young woman he falls for in that cult classic.

dinner in america review

There's not a lot of innovation on display here, with Simon getting up to exactly the sort of hijinks you might expect of such a character - we know, for instance, that the two young jocks who constantly harass Patty are going to get their comeuppance at Simon's hands at some point, and that Patty is going to come out of her shell in Simon's company. But what makes Dinner in America so striking is how it doubles down on Simon's worst elements while still making it completely believable that a sheltered young woman like Patty would find him irresistible.

Simon is a tornado tearing his way through the suburbs, a sociopath with no filter who speaks his mind and doesn't care who he offends. In this era where everybody seems to be constantly walking on eggshells, he's something of the perfect anti-hero. Sure, he's a narcissistic asshole, but it's hard not to envy the freedom he enjoys through his complete lack of self-awareness. In what feels like his first role of substance, Gallner is thoroughly captivating. With his tank top and shaved sides he's a parody of fuckboy nonchalance, and there's a genuine air of scuzzy danger that few of today's young American actors seem capable of conveying.

dinner in america review

Rehmeier directs with the same punk energy harnessed by his leading man. His film moves at breakneck pace as the speed freak Simon takes Patty on a whirlwind tour of nihilistic possibilities, but it always finds time to focus on its characters. His script is a lot less literary than you might expect from an American indie dramedy of its type – we learn as much about Simon and Patty through their actions as their words. I suspect some viewers may miss the point here and find Dinner in America as abrasive as its male protagonist, but anyone willing to embrace its skanky charms is in for a treat.

Dinner in America is streaming on Arrow and available to buy or rent on all digital platforms in the UK from 1st June.

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