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  Dinner in America The Odder Couple
Year: 2020
Director: Adam Rehmeier
Stars: Kyle Gallner, Emily Skeggs, Griffin Gluck, Pat Healy, Mary Lynn Rajskub, David Yow, Hannah Marks, Nick Chinlund, Lea Thompson, Nico Greetham, Jennifer Prediger, Ryan Malgarini, Charlie Newhart, Sean Rogers, Katherine Waddell, Sophie Bolen
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Simon (Kyle Gallner) thought he could make some easy money doing drugs trials at this corporation's testing institute, but after some ill-effects make him reconsider staying there for the whole time he had signed up, he was informed he would not be given his whole salary. A naturally angry young man, he storms out but on the bright side, one of his fellow test subjects (Hannah Marks) is standing at the bus stop. When he points out there is no Sunday service, she invites him back to her parents' home for dinner and oral sex, so obviously he agrees, little knowing this will set him on the road to romance...

But not with the girl at the bus stop, since after spending time with her insufferable family and almost being seduced by her mother (Lea Thompson), he has to make a quick getaway through the window as her father and brother threaten him. That presentation of the family dinner as the worst time in the day was a thread running through this film, it was not so titled as a pun on the Supertramp album Breakfast in America, for punk rock was where its heart lay, the songs specially created for the film and sounding authentic and unpolished. But was it all about the punk spirit, or was there more to this, that you might not expect?

Actually, while it came on with rage and fury, once it got to grips with its love story Dinner in America was a big softy at heart. Reminiscent of a rough romance like the eighties cult favourite Sid and Nancy, this was nowhere near as bleak, and seemed to be set sometime in the nineties as there were no signifiers of the twenty-first century to be glimpsed, no mobile phones, no flat screen TVs, anything like that. The object of Simon's eventual affection is Patty, played with a Velma Dinkley appearance by Emily Skeggs as a twenty-year-old loser who everyone believes has learning difficulties, so you can imagine the word she hears when she's out of the house.

Of course, Patty is not mentally disabled, she's simply maladjusted and has no idea about the wider world after having lived a shelter life, yet there is the outlet of punk rock to listen to in her bedroom and dance to and, er, masturbate to - she sends the Polaroid photos of her hand in her underwear at the point of orgasm to the lead singer of her favourite band, Psy-Ops. Now, if you're ahead of the film, you'll know who that is, but he wears a black ski mask onstage to preserve his identity and to keep a degree of suspense going as to when Patty will meet him and how she will react when she does. So you can see, this was not your average boy meets girl, holding hands in the park, sharing spaghetti dinners like Lady and the Tramp kind of relationship comedy.

Was it insightful, though? Or was it aiming for the funny bone? In fact, though it was trying to be shocking to give the proceedings an edge, Dinner in America was surprisingly sweet once you got around the frequent strong language flying about. Simon, now on the run from police patrol cars, meets cute with Patty, or as cute as she can be with the shit stains from the pet shop job on her smock, but you should have the measure of the tone by then, and persuades her to take him back home to her parents with her. Simon gets around the awkwardness by lying through his teeth to them (he says he's a Christian missionary!) and soon he has a base of operations to plan his next move, though he does not give the impression of a man who thinks too far ahead. Although relentlessly aggressive and in your face, the film's portrayal of outsider culture was sympathetic, so when it finally calmed down and allowed its central couple to connect, it succeeded better than you might anticipate; maybe you could see that coming a mile off, but you did not resent it. Music by John Swihart.

[DINNER IN AMERICA is streaming on ARROW and available to buy or rent on all digital platforms in the UK from 1st June 2021. Click here to join the Arrow Player website - there's a free trial available.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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