NZIFF Review: Anarchist punk singer and eccentric pet store worker blow up '90s American suburbia in Dinner in America

River Lin reviews Dinner in America

Patty (Emily Skeggs) and Simon (Kyle Galler) in a still from Dinner in America. Source: Supplied

Like Napoleon Dynamite’s misfit cousin, director Adam Rehmeier’s dark comedy Dinner in America is a searing portrait of ‘90s American suburbia, rampant drug use and the healing power of punk rock.

The coming of age film follows Simon (Kyle Galler), a punk singer with a penchant for pyromania, as he goes on the run from police - who have put out a $5000 reward for his arrest - after a failed encounter with a bored housewife ends in literal flames and a Sunday roast hurled at a jock running full speed.

Simon soon finds himself hiding out with eccentric pet store employee Patty (Emily Skeggs), a university dropout with “s*** for brains and zero personality” whose only escape from the monotony of midwestern suburbia and her uptight family is jamming to punk rock in the inner sanctuary of her bedroom.

Things soon become complicated as Patty reveals her secret obsession with punk rock quartet Psyops and its anonymous, masked lead singer - and Simon’s alter ego - John C. Public.

After several antics involving a dead cat and a lunch-date-turned-makeout-session, Patty's involvement with Simon sees her stand up for herself and find her purpose in life, beyond the bleak existence of working a menial job in a sleepy Michigan suburb. Simon, too, begins to show other sides to him, without losing his droll tone and sardonic smirk, as he becomes involved with Patty and changes her milquetoast family's life - for better or worse - by introducing them to weed.

The couple make for an odd match, if not for the effortless charm of its two leads. Galler exudes an unpredictable and reckless energy as the anarchy-loving Simon, whose liberal use of derogatory and homophobic slurs can be easily overlooked thanks to his off-the-wall charisma.

Skeggs, too, is instantly likeable as the awkward and self-effacing Patty, whose difficulty with comprehension offsets the more volatile and easily-angered Simon.

While the film’s plot points are not entirely original - such as with Patty’s transformation scene, found in many a romcom - Dinner in America is brimming with life and a fast-paced score without feeling rushed within its tight 106-minute runtime.

Rated R16 - Offensive language, sexual material, sex scenes, violence and nudity.

Dinner in America is now available for streaming at NZIFF at Home - Online.