A punk rock arsonist is not the likely lead in a romantic comedy, but love has never been known to follow the rules. Dinner in America cheers for the underdogs and sees people for who they really are.
Writer/director Adam Rehmeier’s twist on a boy-meets-girl tale starts with punk rocker Simon (Kyle Gallner) setting a house on fire. He sells drugs and is a social rung below a roustabout, or at least that is how it appears from afar. Patty (Emily Skeggs) works at a pet store, though that seems to be more of a way to pass time than a passion. Local kids tease her and her boss doesn’t appreciate her. She lives at home with her parents, which is where she takes Simon to hide from the cops who are looking for him. Patty and Simon went to high school together years back, and she appears to have a lightly lingering crush.
While Patty might seem to be aimlessly drifting through life in her Michigan suburb, she does have a passion for music. The indie-punk band Psyops are her obsession and she desperately wants to connect with the lead singer John Q. As she shares their music with Simon and opens up her heart just a little bit, their connection grows, and soon they are inseparable.
Dinner in America is not particularly polished or elegant. It does not have a soaring score to telegraph to the audience that love has blossomed, or feature sunset walks on the beach. But all of this is true to the honest nature of the protagonists’ bond. These two found each other when they were not looking for love, and their mutual appreciation and attraction is what sparks their romance. Both of them were stumbling through life, underappreciated by their families and misunderstood by their peers, but in each other they found someone who helped them make sense in their worlds.
Add to all that some frankly exceptional punk rock music moments, and Dinner in America is destined to be the preeminent alt-romance of 2020.—Deirdre Crimmins