Fantasia International Film Festival: Dinner in America (2020) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Dinner in America (2020) is an outstanding film written and directed by Adam Rehmeier. It is a tribute to the ’90s, to punk-rock, and to romantic comedies. All of these things add up to one enjoyable experience for someone like myself, who tends to be a sucker for all of the aforementioned things. The film’s leads only add further to this, as they have so much natural chemistry through their performances that it’s hard not to believe their intense connection. 

Simon (Kyle Gallner) is a man who stands by his principles and is willing to go outside of the law to make his point. After setting a house on fire, he finds himself on the run from the law and in need of a place to crash. Patty (Emily Skeggs) helps Simon avoid capture and the two return to her home. It doesn’t take too much convincing for Simon to get her parents to agree to his crashing there while in between his missionary responsibilities. From there, it’s an odd series of events that push Patty and Simon ever closer together. 

Gallner is an actor who will pull me into watching a movie from now on. Between his performance in this movie and in Band of Robbers (2015), he has continued to impress. There are so much angst and nihilism coming from Simon that he could be off-putting to some viewers. However, there is also drive, determination, and a commitment to his beliefs that are inspiring as well. He is definitely flawed, but he clearly has a good heart and a chip on his shoulder. It’s his desire to see the underdogs succeed that makes his connection with Patty so believable. 

Patty is 20, but still living at home and very clearly has been sheltered for far too long. Yet, she has found a rebellious outlet with punk music – specifically with one band and its singer. She is constantly picked on or undervalued by those around her, and it’s this element that Simon can’t tolerate. A great element of this film though is the fact that Simon isn’t solely her white knight sent in to rescue her; she comes to his rescue and proves to be a strong, independent person in her own right. The two truly compliment each other, and it’s a joy to watch. 

The movie has tons of great comedic scenes, some intense dramatic ones, and an incredible music piece towards the end. The movie doesn’t have a lot of original music, but the song we see composed is so great and so important to the narrative that it easily pushed this movie over the edge for me. It was one I was really into,  if not unsure about some of the messaging and choices – but once I saw this sequence, I knew this will be one that gets rewatched by me regularly. 

Rehmeier has crafted an instant indie classic for someone like me. There is so much to enjoy in this film that the song at the end just cemented its greatness. I love the performances, and even though some of the humor feels like it is taken right out of the 90s (meaning it isn’t all politically correct), the film still feels like it fits in today’s world. Dinner in America earns the Must See rating.

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