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Fantasia 2020: The Charm is Turned Up to 11 in Dinner in America

This might just be my favorite watch of Fantasia International Film Festival so far, and I’ve seen quite a few 5/5s. Adam Carter Rehmeier’s Dinner in America has everything you want and more. It’s charming and sweet, exciting and punk rock. The cast is phenomenal, the music is great, and it’s aesthetically pleasing. I could not possibly have asked for more from this story, and that’s what makes it my favorite.

Dinner in America centers around a nerdy girl named Patty (Emily Skeggs) and a punk rocker named Simon (Kyle Gallner), who’s stumbled into her life after some run-ins with the law. Patty is really into this one punk rock band, Psyops, who are playing a show on Friday, and Simon has just acquired a car—you see where this is going. Since Simon is hiding out from the cops in her house, it’s only right for him to give her a ride to the show. In the meantime, the two get into as much trouble as they possibly can, from revenge on Patty’s bullies to revenge on Patty’s shitty ex-boss. There are a ton of charming, endearing moments that make you forget that Simon is an arsonist. Simon and Patty run around like they own the world. And along the way, they kind of fell for each other.

Patty (Emily Skeggs), Simon (Kyle Gallner), Connie (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and family all hold hands around the dinner table in prayer.

All of the chaos Patty and Simon created with their acts of revenge was insanely fun. Each scene was well-written and satisfying for the viewer, as you root for them to get back at the jerks who did Patty wrong. Dinner in America roots itself around tense dinner scenes that always provide a laugh or two, despite those laughs being a little dark at times. It’s not a film that takes itself too seriously. The humor is only amplified by the charm of the film. Each revenge scene has its moments of tongue-in-cheek humor. And the characters themselves have inside jokes, which we feel like we’re in on.

When watching the film, you felt like you were in their relationship. You felt the love blossoming between them and the pure joy they felt when they were together. Nothing they did together could possibly go wrong. It was a romantic whirlwind of teasing and flirting and subtle gestures. Maybe COVID has just made me extra lonely, but this was really sweet, despite the absolute chaos that Patty and Simon get themselves into. Between the insanity, there was this really beautiful love story. And what’s more romantic than a punk rock love song?

The music in Dinner in America is so insanely good; I am desperately anticipating a soundtrack. The original songs from Psyops and other characters are really well-made, which can be hit or miss with a film that uses a band as a main plot point. And not just the music that’s diegetic within the film, but also the music that scored the film was a blast. There is a very carefully curated aesthetic at work here, and it’s evident in every aspect of the film, from the music to the visuals. Everything in this film is visually and aesthetically pleasing, even the fast food joint. It’s visually romantic while the story itself is romantic.

As for the cast of Dinner in America, the entire ensemble is phenomenal. The way each actor plays off of each other is perfect. Nothing they do takes you out of the story or distracts you. You could not have picked better actors for each role, particularly the two leads. Emily Skeggs and Kyle Gallner have such great chemistry together; it’s almost hard to believe they’re not actually a couple in real life. Seriously, they’re adorable together. They’re believable characters who develop wonderfully throughout the film, and all of that development could not be better showcased than with the talented cast.

Lead singer of Psyops, John Q (identity secret), wears a ski mask as he sings.

This film just feels complete; it has a sense of everything coming full circle. Nothing is unresolved at the end, and while sometimes that’s exciting for other genres, it feels like you’re cheated sometimes when it comes to an indie romantic comedy. Can I even call it that? It’s more of a dramedy I guess if you’re being technical, and it’s got an indie vibe. Like if A24 (think Florida Project and American Honey) did a modern Heathers without the murder (but I mean, you still have the arson), but also very much not at the same time. It has its own enigma and aesthetic. Dinner in America is a perfect movie, top to bottom.

What else can I say about a film as flawless and irresistible in its charm as Dinner in America? You’ll fall in love with the suburbs after watching this. The humor, the music, the aesthetics, the script, the cast, I could go on for days about how wonderful it all is. This is not a film you want to miss in 2020. When this comes out, I better see you guys going out and seeing it.

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