Fantasia 2020 Review: Dinner In America

The misfit romance succeeds thanks to rebellious characters and charismatic leads, Kyle Gallner and Emily Skeggs.

Adam Carter Rehmeier’s directorial debut is a punk rock romance that really shines once it gets past its clunky opening act.

Set in a bland Midwestern suburb, Simon (Kyle Gallner) is a petty criminal who moonlights as the masked frontman of a punk rock band. Fond of arson, he finds himself on the wrong side of the law when he meets Patty (Emily Skeggs), an outcast in both her family and among her peers, teased for her looks and likes. After a chance meeting, Patty offers Simon refuge at her house, making fast friends with the man she doesn’t realize is the singer of her favourite band and object of her fantasies. While seeming like two polar opposites, these misfits each have something to offer one another as Patty brings out Simon’s sweet side and Simon helps Patty channel her own inner songstress.

And yes – there’s more than one awkward and uncomfortable family dinner in middle America.

The film’s abrasive first act (featuring a cameo by Lea Thompson) is a slog to get through but the story begins to shine once Gallner and Skeggs warm up. Their casting and on-screen chemistry is what makes the film work through the clichés and when moments of humour fall flat. The more they’re on screen together, the more the film works as it moves from its forced edginess into a sweet punk rock love story.

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The biggest misfires in the film are the bits of dark comedy that just seem to miss the mark, especially when it comes to the use of slurs and some of the more gross-out comedy bits that end up with groans instead of laughs. Still, Gallner and Skeggs are so committed to the story, they manage to pull things back into focus and march forward on a far more sweeter note than you’d expect out of a movie about anarchist rockers.

Produced by Ben Stiller, the film opened with positive reviews at Sundance earlier this year and plays as part of Fantasia’s 2020 virtual line-up.

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