(director/writer: Adam Rehmeier; cinematographer: Jean-Philippe Bernier; editor: Adam Rehmeier; music: John Swihart; cast: Kyle Gallner (Simon), Emily Skeggs (Patty), Pat Healy (Norman), Griffin Gluck (Kevin), Lea Thompson (Betty), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Connie), Ryan Malgarini (Daniel), Nick Chinlund (Bill), Mary Anderson (Bus Passenger), David Yow (Eddie), Hannah Marks (Beth), Ricky Wayne (Dr. Joy), Robert Laenen (Thick Neck), Brian Andrus (Honey Glaze), Nico Greetham (Derrick); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ben Stiller, Nicky Weinstock, Ross Putman, Dave Hunter, John Covert, Sam Slater; Atlas Industries/Red Hour Films; 2020)

It comes with a star performance by Kyle Gallner to carry it through some of its rough spots.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Adam Rehmeier (“Jonas”/”The Bunny Game”) is the auteur of this uneven character study comedy film about misfits who meet in the Michigan suburbs to learn about love. It comes with a star performance by its anti-hero Kyle Gallner to carry it through some of its rough spots. It plays out as a throwback edgy movie from the 1980s and 1990s.

The 20-something Simon (Kyle Gallner) and Beth (Hannah Marks) are both let go from a paid drug-research study they signed-up for, after a bad drug reaction to it in their experimental dinner. When she takes him home for sexual fun, her mom (Lea Thompson) ruins things by coming on to him, and he splits after a terrible family dinner filled with insults.

Simon is an excitable musician (he’s the unnamed lead singer with Psyops, an underground punk rock band). The cops have an interest in him on suspicions over several crimes and want to bring him in for questioning. The 20-year-old socially awkward Patty (Emily Skeggs), nicknamed ‘Retard’ by friends, lives at home with her belittling parents (Pat Healy and Mary Lynn Rajskub) and works in a pet store for a minimum wage until fired for being ugly. She’s a die-hard fan of Psyops, and digs sending the lead singer, known as John Q.Public, risqué fan mail of her masturbating but has never seen his face unmasked (he wears a mask for his act). Their paths cross one day when he’s on the run from the cops, and he hides out in her family home. Simon stays for a family dinner with her dysfunctional family. A relationship blooms, and she yearns to escape with him from her humdrum existence to go outlaw.

The film’s second half goes ‘wild and crazy.’ When the sweet Patty has a breakthrough and even makes the unbearable Simon a little bit more bearable– the film seemingly gets a little better. It reaches its crescendo when Patty gets the nerve to sing: “F*ck ’em all but us.” There you have the flick’s talking or singing points, and reason for being.

It’s a high-energy film, with an appealing warped humor for the usual suspects and good overall weird performances from the leads. But it can’t sustain its story, and has serious narrative lapses.

Dinner in America - Sundance - U.S. DRAMA - Publicity - H

REVIEWED ON 1/23/2021  GRADE: C+