Dinner in America is a twisted rom-com brimming with originality and dark humor. What begins at one extreme is constantly flipped on its head, as messages about reveling in being a punk-rock-loser speak volumes. Crude and aggressive, the brand of comedy here will be off-putting to some—this viewer, however, fell in love with the heart and soul of the intriguing project. Just try not quoting at least one line of zippy dialogue from this outsider masterpiece after it concludes. Writer/director Adam Rehmeier dilutes pure raw emotion with a crackling mixture of phenomenal ensemble performances and outlandish characters.
Simon (Kyle Gallner, Scream, The Cleansing Hour) is not only in a burgeoning punk band on the cusp of their biggest break ever, but he is also on the run from the cops! Simon’s pyrotechnic antics have finally caught up to him, and he has but one option—find a “host family” to lay low with for awhile. Enter, Patty (Emily Skeggs), a bullied teen who works at a pet store cleaning the shit off animals. When the local jocks aren’t teasing her and calling her a “cumcatcher,” Patty writes letters to the mysterious ski-mask wearing lead singer of her favorite underground band. Naughty masturbatory Polaroids are snapped as her obsession grows. After a chance meeting in an alleyway, Patty brings Simon home for an unusual dinner date with her parents and brother.
Dinner in America is careful to put proper emphasis on both Simon and Patty separately before nudging them together. The romance that forms is anything but conventional. Simon is raunchy and loud, whereas Patty is quiet and profound. Sometimes the most unexpected couplings make the strongest matches—the duo simply grow together rather than trying to change one another. They develop an easy rapport that feels entirely natural.
I have been smitten with Kyle Gallner for as long as I can remember, and yet this feels like the role he was born to play. Opposite him, Emily Skeggs is equally great. Dinner in America fills its ensemble cast with a variety of different performers that elevate their material. Nico Greetham, who I loved recently in American Horror Story: Double Feature and Dramarama, plays an outrageously horny jock, while Back to the Future’s Lea Thompson pops up for a small hilarious MILF-y role at the beginning, and Griffin Gluck (Big Time Adolescence, Locke & Key) shines as Patty’s adopted brother who discovers marijuana for the first time.
In the home stretch, Dinner in America transcends the borders of what came before by embracing its musicality. The centerpiece song, assumingly titled “Fuck ‘Em All But Us,” is genuinely great and brought tears to my eyes. Despite being consistently catcalled and referred to as “retard,” Patty learns resilience and self identity though her hookup with Simon; her lyrical poems are magical. If one has been on the hunt for a rom-com that strays from the norm, Dinner in America may hit that ideal sweet spot. A fantastic ending speaks to the outsider in us all, and wraps up the film with a beautiful bow.
Dinner in America implores the viewer to “take it down a notch” when it debuts in limited release theaters on May 27, followed by its streaming release on Tuesday, June 7th.
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