Few actors are as efficient conveying misanthropy as Peter Dinklage. With his arch line readings and endlessly expressive face, the actor excels at portraying broken souls possessing an underlying vulnerability. It’s what makes him so excellent for the starring position within the new movie scripted by Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures) during which he performs an embittered financial professor desperately looking for happiness however failing miserably at each flip. American Dreamer, not too long ago showcased because the opening night time movie of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, is the kind of acerbic black comedy that seems like a throwback to the extra cinematically daring Seventies period.
Dinklage performs Philip Loder, an economics professor at a New England college whose lectures primarily include offended screeds about social inequality. Philip pertains to the topic personally, since he solely earns $50,000 a yr and doesn’t have the tenure that might guarantee job safety. In his spare time, he works on a novel however largely goals in regards to the kind of fancy actual property that he’s in no place to remotely afford. He attends open home showings of luxurious properties hosted by his actual property dealer good friend Dell (an amusingly droll Matt Dillon) who places up with Philip’s presence despite the fact that he enjoys scaring off potential patrons.
The Bottom Line
A witty darkish comedy.
Philip, who additionally engages in a wealthy fantasy life involving the romantic attentions of two beautiful younger girls who dote on him, thinks that his dream of proudly owning an opulent residence would possibly come to fruition when he turns into conscious of a deal that appears too good to be true. It entails a palatial waterfront mansion being bought for “$5 million as is, or $240,00 with live-in.” It’s owned by the aged, childless widow Astrid Finnelli (Shirley MacLaine), who will promote on the cheaper price below the situation that she’s allowed to stay in the home for the remainder of her life.
Assured by Dell that he shouldn’t have to attend lengthy to take sole possession because the wheelchair-bound Astrid is “actively dying,” Philip cashes in all his financial savings and sells all of his possessions to boost the mandatory funds and strikes into the home’s decrepit servants’ quarters. Much to his chagrin, he quickly discovers that Astrid, relatively than being at loss of life’s door, is a spry senior who appears the image of well being. And that she has truly a number of grownup kids, together with Maggie (Kimberly Quinn), an legal professional who makes it very clear that she has no intention of letting Philip get away with the deal.
The movie, loosely based mostly on a true-life phase of the radio present This American Life, has a definite Harold and Maude black-comedy vibe in its depiction of the connection between Astrid and Philip. It begins out frosty however finally develops right into a heat friendship and even love after he winds up saving her life on multiple event, even supposing letting her die can be in his personal self-interest.
Meanwhile, Philip, who appears to be irresistible to girls, finds himself repeatedly falling into mattress — first with a 30-year-old graduate scholar (Michelle Mylett) in an informal relationship that threatens to destroy his profession after she informs Philip’s division head (Danny Pudi, Community), after which with Maggie regardless of their earlier animosity.
Director Paul Dektor, making his characteristic debut, doesn’t show absolutely profitable in navigating the story’s abrupt tonal shifts and inconsistencies, which embody a number of of the characters seeming to alter their personalities on the drop of a hat. The movie juggles a couple of too many parts, together with a subplot involving an simply shocked personal detective (splendidly performed by Danny Glover), and overindulges in slapstick humor because the endlessly unfortunate Philip suffers quite a few accidents on account of mishaps with, amongst different issues, a scalding bathe and window air-conditioner.
But it additionally has many hilarious moments because of Melfi’s witty screenplay that includes a plethora of very humorous one-liners particularly delivered to perfection by the 2 stars. The effortlessly charismatic Dinklage makes you root for his character regardless of his many flaws and hangdog demeanor, whereas MacLaine, nonetheless a pressure of nature at age 88, shows crack comedian timing honed by 67 years (!) of big-screen expertise. They’re a pleasure to observe in a movie that doesn’t absolutely reside as much as its appreciable thematic ambitions however provides substantial pleasures alongside the way in which.