American Dreamer Movie review: Peter Dinklage and Shirley MacLaine make an attractive odd couple
Matt Dillon, Kimberly Quinn and Danny Glover also appear in this black comedy scripted by Theodore Melfi (“Hidden Figures”).
Few actors are as effective at conveying misanthropy as Peter Dinklage. With his arched readings and infinitely expressive face, the actor excels at portraying damaged souls with an underlying vulnerability. That’s what makes him so perfect for the lead role in the new film written by Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures) in which he plays an embittered business professor who desperately seeks happiness but fails miserably at every opportunity.
American Dreamer, recently featured as the opening night film of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, is the kind of biting black comedy that feels like a throwback to the edgy cinema era of the 1970s.
Dinklage plays Philip Loder, an economics professor at a New England university whose lectures consist mostly of furious rants about social inequality. Philip is referring to the matter personally, since he only makes $50,000 a year and doesn’t have a mandate that would guarantee job security.
In his spare time he works on a novel, but mostly dreams of the kind of lavish real estate he can’t even remotely afford. He attends open house showings of palatial homes hosted by his real estate agent friend Dell (a funny, funny Matt Dillon) who puts up with
Philip’s presence even as he enjoys scaring potential buyers. Also caught up in a life full of fantasy involving the romantic attentions of two beautiful young women who adore him, Philip thinks his dream of owning a luxurious home might come true when he notices a deal that seems too good for him. real. It’s a palatial oceanfront mansion that retails for “$5 million as-is, or $240.00 with lodgings.” It is owned by childless elderly widow Astrid Finnelli (Shirley MacLaine), which she will sell at her lowest price on the condition that she is allowed to stay in the house for the rest of her life.
Assured by Dell that he would not have to wait long to take sole possession since the wheelchair-bound Astrid is “actively dying”, Philip cashes in all his savings and sells all his possessions to raise the necessary funds and moves into the house. decrepit utility rooms. To his chagrin, he soon discovers that Astrid, instead of on the verge of death, is a vivacious old woman who looks like the spitting image of health. And who actually has several grown children, including Maggie (Kimberly Quinn), a lawyer who makes it abundantly clear that she’s not going to let Philip get away with it.
The film, loosely based on a real-life segment of the radio show This American Life, has a distinctive Harold and Maude black comedy vibe in its depiction of Astrid and Philip’s relationship. It starts off cold, but eventually turns into a warm friendship and even love after he ends up saving her life on more than one occasion, even though letting her die would be in his own best interest.
Meanwhile, Philip, who seems to be irresistible to women, finds himself repeatedly falling into bed, first with a 30-year-old student (Michelle Mylett) in a casual relationship that threatens to destroy his career after she informs the boss of Philip’s institute. department (Danny Pudi, Community), and later with Maggie despite their previous animosity.
Director Paul Dektor, making his feature film debut, proves not entirely successful in juggling the story’s abrupt shifts in tone and inconsistencies, which include many of the characters seeming to switch personalities in the blink of an eye. . The film juggles too many elements, including a subplot involving an easily blinded private detective (beautifully played by Danny Glover), overdoing it with slapstick humor as the infinitely hapless Philip suffers numerous injuries from accidents with, among other things, a hot shower and window air conditioning.
But it also has many hilarious moments thanks to Melfi’s witty script which features many hilarious lines, especially perfectly performed by the two stars. The charismatic and easygoing Dinklage has you rooting for his character despite his many flaws and cringe-worthy demeanor, while MacLaine, still a force of nature at 88, displays comedic timing honed by 67 years (!) of experience on the big screen. It’s a joy to see them in a film that doesn’t quite live up to their considerable thematic ambitions, but offers substantial delights along the way.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A witty dark comedy.
Venue: Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Shirley MacLaine, Matt Dillon, Danny Glover, Kimberly Quinn, Danny Pudi, Michelle Mylett
Director: Paul Dektor
Screenwriter: Theodore Melfi
1 hour 46 minutes