It is October, in the year 2020 – I need to mark this for posterity, because I can proudly proclaim that I have stumbled upon my favourite film of the year. So kudos to you, Adam Rehmeier, you mad genius of a man.
Dinner in America is absolutely bonkers, in the absolute best of ways, which is clear from the beginning alone as Hannah Marks’ character Beth salivates profusely while stroking a piece of meat suggestively. Beth and Simon (Kyle Gallner) are part of a drug trial, but as we can all tell from the erratic behaviour both of them are exhibiting, they aren’t responding well, and are forced to leave. This leaves Simon with a reduced paycheck and an invitation to dinner at Beth’s house.
These dinner invitations are a recurring motif in the film, with Simon constantly showing up at various dinners, and bringing chaos wherever he dines. Nothing about Simon toes the line: he does whatever he wants, which includes a penchant for setting fires and making out with hot moms.
Gallner is truly the perfect embodiment of sex and danger, the kind of man your parents warned you about, where simple proximity to him is combustible stuff. Emily Skeggs’ Patty is the opposite: she is bullied by nearly everyone, from school jocks in matching tracksuits, to her employer at the pet store. But within the confines of her own room, we see that Patty longs for something more than her colourful clothes would suggest, working herself up to a frenzy as she dances to the punk rock tunes of her ‘music boyfriend’, before capturing her la petit mort in a series of pornographic polaroids.
The film meanders for a bit, as we wait for Simon and Patty’s worlds to collide, with a meet-cute so subversive you won’t even recognise it for what it is, until we realise that both are drawn to each other. It is a mad, riotous fun time with the pair, as they confront Patty’s bullies together, as well as her former employer. With Simon, Patty gains agency over her life, choosing to confront bad behaviour instead of allowing herself to be defined by how other people treat her. It is all wonderfully insane, and we find ourselves rooting for them, cheering as they give the bullies a dose of their own medicine, drawn in by their relationship and chemistry.
Dinner in America is the very definition of punk rock; it is loud, aggressive and fast-moving, with chaos laced into every layer of its runtime. But it is also about purpose, and how going against the grain is sometimes needed in order for you to discover who you are and what you can offer to the world. Patty has been drifting, boxed in by how the world and her parents see her. Simon says fuck that to all that, allowing her to finally see her talents and what she is meant to do. With Patty, Simon finds peace and a sense of belonging, because she sees him for who he is, while the world and his family only see a criminal and drug addict.
Watching this film is like riding the most loopy roller coaster, where you end the journey with mad hair and a perma-smile on your face, and say yes to doing it all over again.
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Dinner in America is mad, riotous fun, and I encourage all to partake in this feast of chaotic excellence.
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