If the following were all to feature in a film, which would most likely to be red flags for you?
a.) A license plate which reads “69URMOM.”
b.) The aloof try-hardness of its small-time punk rock lead (Kyle Gallner).
c.) A bingo card of racist, homophobic, and ableist slurs that seem to permeate every other line in a winking, “these are naughty words and we’re using them because we don’t care,” way.
d.) None of the above, more please.
If the answer to this question is D, then Adam Rehmeier’s sophomore feature Dinner in America is almost certainly for you. If you’re answer is any (or, most likely, all) of the other options, then your mileage will almost certainly vary. For clarification purposes, I am far more into the camp of exasperate eye-rolling than adoration.
Dinner in America follows Gallner as Simon, a small-stage punk rocker on the lam for various medium sized crimes, living under his stage pseudonym of John Q. When awkward twenty-something Patty (Emily Skaggs) helps him escape the cops, Simon moves in with, where he discovers that she’s secretly his biggest fan.
It’s easy to see what Dinner in America is aiming at, namely, a sneering indictment of stereotypically sanitized Midwestern American values. Unfortunately, Rehmeier’s issues seem to primarily be focused on the sanitization, and not the hypocrisy. This is the fatal flaw. For as good as Skaggs is (she is excellent), and for how ardently the film commits to its intended energy, the statement is entirely focused on its amplitude, and not what is being amplified. Dinner in America has nothing to say about Dinner in America, which is a disappointment considering all that could be said in a still punk rock way.