Dinner with Archetypes: Our Review of ‘Dinner With Friends’

The best thing anyone can write about Nicol Paone’s Dinner with Friends is that it starts out small. The main conflict here is between two besties, Abby (Kat Dennings) and Molly (Malin Akerman). Both of them, by the way, are going through breakups. Abby was expecting American Thanksgiving with Molly. But their friends and family keep inviting themselves over and Molly won’t put her foot down to turn them way. Molly has her own understandable issues. Everyone still thinks she’s reeling from her divorce, which is why Abby and Molly’s mom Helen (Jane Seymour) came over to give her ‘comfort’.

Another person is coming into the dinner. Lauren (Aisha Tyler) invites herself and her family to Molly’s house, and along with Abby, the three of them seem like a convincing squad. Lauren is the one friend who reluctantly tells the group that three of them have a lot to be thankful for. And that seems true in this alternate universe where more than a dozen people are spending Thanksgiving together. Tyler’s voice suits this kind of sentimentality, and it’s interesting for Paone to try to insert those emotional beats. But the latter does so in a sporadic and less effective way.

The other characters here are archetypes, and they are too many for them to develop. They only exist to create forgettable conflicts around Molly’s patio table. Helen is the typical ‘cougar’ mom who talks about ‘pelvic’ salsa in the dinner table in front of her daughter. There’s also Lauren’s husband Dan (Deon Cole). He spends the early section of the dinner speaking to Lauren through innuendoes that offend the lesbians siting across them. Chelsea Peretti plays one of the squad’s friends who turned into a shaman. The poster also has Wanda Sykes who in one scene too few.

And I don’t know how sunlight works in Los Angeles but it makes it feel that they’re having dinner way too early in the afternoon. But at least there are some interesting touches when it comes to the protagonists. Abby is a lesbian who likes sports – who didn’t see that coming – but it’s nice to see an American who’s into association football. She rushes out of the dinner table to watch a game and to babysit Molly’s baby while eating pecan pie. Juggling those things become the film’s Chekhov’s gun that causes a bigger conflict between the besties, but that conflict quickly resolves. Yes, this is a hangout movie, but most of this cast has enough work to do. They didn’t need this on their CV.

  • Release Date: 11/10/2020
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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