Linoleum is a marvellously offbeat tale of one man’s midlife crisis. Reaching beyond the norm, the film turns the whole idea on its head, resulting in a quintessential look at a familiar predicament. This refreshing sci-fi dramedy that had its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Festival offers a delightfully quirky variation on the scenario of living your best life. In its unique way, Linoleum presents a deeply resounding statement on what is actually important in this world.
Jim Gaffigan (Luca) plays Cameron, the host of a failing children’s science show. Despite the reality of his sad suburban existence, he continues to dream of a career as an astronaut, even as his life and marriage to his high school sweetheart, played by Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), falls apart. The strangest things happen to him right from the film’s outset, as if to underscore that he is one of life’s losers.
Linoleum quickly establishes a surreal atmosphere, certainly heightened by the first appearance of a red sports car that seems to drop out of the sky. Soon enough, a rocket plummets straight into his backyard. Cameron’s doppelgänger then appears, at first seeming to aggravate the situation, but then in an interesting turn, facilitating the narrative’s journey into a fascinating about-face.
Undoubtedly, this sounds confusing but to reveal more of the plot would be to spoil the film’s fun. The film is maddeningly – and enticingly – insistent on not revealing its cards until the very end. But what’s great about Linoleum is how the smallest of details, the oddest things really, pop up to create circumstances that propel the narrative forward with appealing determination. This is precisely what mesmerizes and draws the viewer in.
Strong performances further elevate Linoleum. The film features a solid cast of familiar faces, led by comedian Gaffigan and Seehorn and including Katelyn Nacon (The Walking Dead), Gabriel Rush (The Grand Budapest Hotel), West Duchovny (A Mouthful of Air), Michael Ian Black (Wet Hot American Summer), and Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).
During the course of the film, the build up of detail doesn’t always seem to land or make much dramatic sense. Some of its parts even slide ever so slightly into the predictable or the mawkish but the film’s sum total makes up for all of that. In fact, Linoleum generally has enough of the stranger narrative bits to pique our interest until the grand finale.
Though the film unravels mostly as a conventional narrative, it has enough curves in its road to upend our expectations. When this film does kick into gear for its conclusion, it’s worth every bump in the story’s road, making the larger experience of Linoleum a wholly uplifting adventure.
Linoleum opens in theatres in limited release on Friday, February 24.