It’s safe to say that neither Patty nor Simon won any popularity contests at their high schools, two outsiders caught in a system which expects compliance. While Patty has been obliged to conform, working a pointless job in a pet shop which fails to challenge or stimulate her and targeted by the pretty girls for bullying on the bus to work, Simon’s edge is harder, refusing to compromise or back down.
Playing cat and mouse with the police after a particular incident which involved trashing the house of the family who had invited him for dinner and setting their garden alight, Simon finds himself short on boltholes to lay low, but a chance encounter with Patty whom he once shared a music appreciation class with gives him an opportunity, if he can make it through dinner without poking the hornet’s nest of middle-class sensibility.
Written and directed by Adam Rehmeier, Dinner in America is offbeat and awkward, the plates full and the conversation stilted as nuclear families try to make happy faces while meltdown approaches, Simon the agent of chaos thrown into the mix, accustomed to lying, getting what he wants and running now confronted by a situation so improbable it surprises even him.
The Cleansing Hour’s Kyle Gallner is agitated anarchist Simon, pushing hard against everything because he doesn’t know how to do anything else, and Salem’s Emily Skeggs is Patty, her family content to watch her down five psychoactive medications a day so long as it doesn’t interfere with their own lives rather than talk to her or offer anything more than nominal support.
The Bonnie and Clyde of the amusement arcade, Patty’s family think she is fragile but Simon sees a fledgling who needs to escape her cage if she is to ever fly free of stifling suburbia and the urban decay of Michigan, but with anger management issues and a penchant for pyromania Simon has problems of his own, top of the list his bandmates who want their punk outfit Psyops to play a support slot for a commercial New York outfit.
Unconventional and unapologetic, driven by justified rebellion and the music of those who scream because they have no one to speak for them, Patty dancing out her frustrated rage in her bedroom while her family are oblivious downstairs, each course of Dinner in America is a surprise, never playing easy to score points with the viewer and never asking to be liked, only that it be accepted on its own terms.