It’s not very often that you have a film that sneaks up and catches you by complete surprise but Dinner in America, does exactly that. Set within the world of a dreary suburban America, the film joins aggro punk rocker Simon (Kyle Gallner) who finds himself on the run again after a bout of arson and a close call with the police. A chance encounter with the spirited and socially awkward Patty (Emily Skeggs) provides him a place to lay low. As the two embark on a series of misadventures, they begin to realise that they have a lot more in common than they first expected.
As awesome as Dinner in America is, it definitely requires an open mind. The opening twenty minutes are fuelled by Simon’s aggression as we watch him go on an anarchist spiral. Full of confronting dialogue and actions, there will be some who struggle to stick it out through these moments, but those that do make it over this hump will find a wonderfully heartwarming and life-affirming story waiting just over the other side. Once Simon meets Patty his world begins to change as he finally meets his match. As Simon starts to mellow, the tone also morphs and becomes something beautifully quirky and uniquely original.
What makes Simon and Patty so intoxicating are the superb performances delivered by both Kyle Gallner and Emily Skeggs. Kyle Gallner has been a constant on-screen since his teenage years appearing in Veronica Mars, Smallville, Jennifer’s Body, and the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, playing a plethora of teen outsiders, though one that always veered towards the meeker side. As Simon, Gallner transforms himself, every fiber of his being inhabiting this loud and abrasive character. He is cocky, confident, and almost the complete antithesis to what many will know him for, and in doing so he gives one of the best performances of his career. Emily Skeggs is newer to the film scene but has already turned in great performances in films like The Miseducation of Cameron Post. As Patty, she really gets to demonstrate the full range of her abilities, and even lends her vocals to future earworm, The Watermelon Song. As much as the film initially begins with Simon alone, the narrative journey opens up so that both characters have their time to shine. Each complements the other perfectly and the hard work and love that both leads have poured into these characters is nothing short of pure magic.
Surrounding Gallner and Skeggs is an equally strong set of supporting roles. Pat Healy and Mary Lynn Rajskub almost steal every scene they’re in as Patty’s model parents, and Lea Thompson gets the film off to a bang during the opening moments. Then there’s Griffin Gluck as Patty’s brother Kevin, and not forgetting Dinner in America’s version of Heathers’ Ram and Kurt, Derrick (Nico Greetham) and Brandon (Lukas Jacob). Basically, everyone on screen is giving 200%. What really makes this cast stand out as a whole though is that they are all clearly pushing each other to be bolder and better with their performances rather than trying to one-up each other to retain the spotlight themselves. It’s refreshing to see an ensemble cast that so obviously believes in the project they are making and clearly wants it to succeed.
Pulling all the right strings in the background is writer and director Adam Rehmeier. Rehmeier infuses Dinner in America with an infectious amount of energy, his love for all things punk and odd-ball humour shines through in this love letter to the music. The soundtrack, a key component to a film inspired by a musical movement, has been wonderfully curated. The original music is hopefully destined for a future vinyl release as it’s full of brilliance, the previously mentioned Watermelon Song being a jewel in the crown.
Dinner in America is an assault to the senses that really captures the attitude of punk-rock whilst at the same time crafting a quirky tale of love and self-empowerment. A joyously dark-hearted journey through suburban America that taps into the magic of films like Heathers, injects them with the spirit of punk rock and creates an instant hit that has the potential to shape a generation. In short, it’s the tits.
Dinner in America is available to own now.
This review was first published on THN.