Sundance 2020: Dinner in America

Emily Skeggs and Kyle Gallner appear in Dinner in America by Adam Rehmeier, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Philippe Bernier.

Dinner in America may be a love letter to the 1990s punk rock scene in the American Midwest but it’s also a surprising love story.

After an failing to make money during a medical study , Simon (Kyle Gallner) ends up making a run for it.  He ends up with Beth’s (Hannah Marks) family but relations sour with Betty (Lea Thompson) very quickly.  A fight ensues and he tries burning the house down.  Basically, anything that can go wrong…will go wrong.  While on the run from the law, Simon hides out with the shy Patty (Emily Skeggs).  Though Patty may look shy on the outside, she’s a punker at heart.  Her parents, Norm (Pat Healy) and Connie (Mary Lynn Rajskub), won’t allow her to see The Alliance performing on Friday night.  Patty only wants to go because Psyops is performing and Dinner in America is her favorite album.

Things manage to get stranger for Simon as the night goes on.  Aspects of his life begin to make more sense–even if its shocking–as he continues to get to know Patty.  It’s surprising that they didn’t really get to know each other at college because they were in the same music appreciation course.  A few years later, the two of them very much have similar tastes.

On the acting front, both Hannah Marks and Lea Thompson are barely even in the film.  Their brief screen time does manage to serve a purpose for what it’s worth.  Without Beth or Betty, Simon would never run into Patty…and there would not be a film.  As for Kyle Gallner and Emily Skeggs, the duo turn in star-making performances.  They do their own singing, too.

If you’re not a fan of punk rock, Dinner in America will probably not be your type of movie.  If you’re a fan of punk rock, you’re going to eat this film alive.  Personally, I’m not so big on punk if I must say so myself but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.  Though I must say that the first scene with Hannah Marks and Kyle Gallner may have been a bit too much for my tastes.

If Dinner in America reminds of you of Napoleon Dynamite, it should not come as a surprise.  John Swihart composed the scores for both films.  Come to think of it, Dinner in America really is in the same vein as cult classic Napoleon Dynamite.

CAST:  Kyle Gallner, Emily Skeggs, Griffin Gluck, Pat Healy, Mary Lynn Rajskub, David Yow, Hannah Marks, Nick Chinlund, and Lea Thompson

Dinner in America held its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.