An on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band unexpectedly fall in love and go on an epic journey together through America’s decaying Midwestern suburbs.
Mixed in with a sea of excellent horror films at Nightstream festival I came across Dinner In America. An excellent, anarchic look at love in Midwestern America through the eyes of Simon (Kyle Gallner) and Patty (Emily Skeggs).
Written and directed by Adam Rehmeier the film blasted the landscape of my festival experience wide open. With its dry, acerbic humour, punk attitude and distinctly broken-but-likeable characters, Dinner In America quickly bore its way in to my consciousness.
The film evokes classics from the likes of Greg Araki. It’s a timeless story which understands the raw emotions of its young cast and presents them unedited to its audience.
As the title suggests, the film includes a number of dinner-set scenes. The first of which finds Gallner’s prickly Simon being seduced by Lea Thompson’s Betty, mother of his then girlfriend Beth (Hannah Marks). It’s the first in a series of unfortunate events which sets Simon on the path to meeting Patty.
Despite his unsavoury employment as a low-level drug dealer, Simon is incredibly likeable. His character appeals to the angsty side in all of us. Thanks to Rehmeier’s quirky narrative tone, Simon’s misfortune is also able to raise a laugh rather sink the film towards a more depressive nature.
Standing in stark contrast to Simon is Patty. Emily Skeggs brings a light, care-free attitude to the story which perfectly offsets Simon’s darkness. Patty works at the local pet store and is bullied on the bus by jocks who call her “retard.” Being fired from her job for not being pretty enough and triggers events which find Patty and Simon discovering their common ground.
It’s tough to say which of the two leads impacts the other the most. As Dinner In America progresses there’s an end-and-flow between the two as they explore their emotions. Rehmeier’s story has a striking balance of character which really allows Gallner and Skeggs to equally share the limelight.
At times Dinner In America feels overlong but in hindsight the journey of these two characters feels incredibly natural. Allowing the film to run a little long allows both characters time to relax and breathe the sigh of relief they both so desperately need. I defy any viewer to not be caught up in the whirlwind events of their friendship.
Ultimately Simon has to face the consequences of his actions, being arrested during one of his bands shows. But in doing so it becomes clear that as the film ends both characters have been irrevocably changed by their time together.
Patty’s journey to become a lead-vocalist-grunge-princess feels like the only stretch in the entire narrative. But Skegg’s ability to carry off that anarchic sparky-ness makes the change feel all the more effortless in the film’s closing moments.
Dinner In America is an anarchic look at love framed by the fraying edges of life in America’s Midwest.
Written and directed by Adam Rehmeier, Dinner in America stars Kyle Gallner and Emily Skeggs.