Parents' Guide to

Dinner in America

By Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Drugs, swearing in edgy but lovable romcom.

Movie NR 2022 106 minutes
Dinner in America Movie: Poster

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On paper, this edgy indie romcom about folks on the fringes has been done before, but in practice, the humane performances (and especially a transfixing musical moment) make it something special. From the outset -- the first shot of Dinner in America is a drug-sick, drooling Simon glaring at the camera with watery eyes -- the characters keep viewers off-balance. Simon's every interaction is laced with rage, cruelty, and cynicism, but occasionally he lets flickers of caring show. Meanwhile, Patty is even more of a cipher, enduring excruciating family dinners (perhaps blissfully unaware of just what's so excruciating about them) before heading to her room to blast punk rock. In truth, it's not always easy to like these two -- or to figure out what makes them tick.

But as Dinner in America goes on through its strange, funny episodes, that's precisely what makes them so interesting. Like the characters in Harold & Maude and many other movies, they eventually form an undeniable bond, here crystallized when they record their song. Simon lays down the drums, guitar, and bass and then presses record while Patty shyly begins to sing a song called "Watermelon." What emerges is one of those resplendent movie moments that makes you want to hold your breath until it's over, for fear of breaking the spell. Something beautiful emerges right before our eyes. It registers on Simon's face; he drops all his defenses. He's been emotionally touched. And so have we.

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