Tag Archives: Matt Dillon


American Dreamer

by Hope Madden

I was looking forward to American Dreamer, the comedy/drama that pairs Peter Dinklage and Shirley MacLaine as odd couple tenant/homeowner in a comment on the American dream.

And then I found out Matt Dillon and Danny Glover are in it, which appealed as well.

And then I wondered what on earth compelled any of the four of them to take this gig.

Paul Dektor’s film follows Dr. Phil Loder (Dinklage), an adjunct professor of social economics who is very down on his luck. Not sure how he got here? No worries, because a bartender will explain all of it to Loder, who one assumes must already know his own backstory. But this is how bad writing shows itself. And it won’t be the last time.

Loder dreams of home ownership, but he lives in a crappy apartment, drives a 30-year-old Saab, and makes (the bartender explains) less than 50k a year. But then he finds the deal of a lifetime in his price range. He just has to pay now, hold out in the stinky servant’s quarters and wait until the current owner (MacLaine) dies. Then  his dream house is all his!

That’s convoluted and contrived enough, but wait, there’s more!

Mainly there’s a lot of sloppy, needless plot devices that do not entertain but do disjoint the overall film. One of these writers (Theodore Melfi) has an Oscar nomination for Hidden Figures. Go figure.

Not that the direction’s any better. Dektor can’t decide if American Dreamer is a slapstick comedy, a sex comedy, or a social diatribe aimed at capitalism. Choosing none of these, he winds up creating an inarticulate mishmash.

Everything that happens outside the relationship between Dinklage and MacLaine feels extraneous, but the focus is almost never on the two leads. Worse still, the actual relationship—what we see of it—is silly and superficial. Because of this, Loder’s arc is unearned.

It’s great to see Dinklage in a lead and in a comedy. Too bad it’s this one.

MacLaine is even more ill-used, and Dillon’s realtor character is unfathomable. You spend the whole time waiting for some revelation, like that he and Loder are boyhood friends or brothers—anything to explain their contemptuous yet close bond.

Maybe I should ask the bartender. I bet he knows.

Take Me Down

Asteroid City

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Welcome to Asteroid City, a grief comedy that may be the most Wes Anderson-y movie Wes Anderson has ever made. Or, welcome to “Asteroid City” – the stage play from famous writer Conrad Earp (Edward Norton) upon which Asteroid City, the film (TV show?) is based. Actively. Brian Cranston will explain as he, the narrator of “Asteroid City”, deconstructs the meticulous framing device Anderson crafts to keep us just one layer further from chaos.

“We are all just characters in a play that we don’t understand.”

As is so often the case, writer/director Anderson painstakingly creates a world – colorful, peculiar, emotionally tight lipped – brimming with characters (equally colorful, peculiar and emotionally tight-lipped). Brimming. About 50 speaking characters stand or sit precisely on their mark, perfectly framed, each one doing their all to keep chaos at bay.

Like Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman), a widowed war photographer stranded with his teenaged son (scene-stealer Jake Ryan from Eighth Grade) and three daughters in the clean desert nowhereville of Asteroid City, where a “stargazing event” will soon commence. Cinematographer Robert D.  Yeoman’s 360-degree swivel shows all you need to see: diner, roadway cabins, onramp to nowhere, and the garage where the town mechanic (Matt Dillon) has found that Augie’s wagon is now deceased.

Augie’s father-in-law Stanley Zak (Tom Hanks, in the usual Bill Murray role) fires ups his Cadillac and arrives for a rescue, only to find no one can leave Asteroid City on account of the alien.

Yep, an alien! He just came down sure as you please and made off with the city’s prized meteorite! Everybody saw it – including famous actress Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson) and all the visiting school kids in Miss June’s (Maya Hawke) class!

So the whole city’s on lockdown, while General Gibson (Jeffery Wright) and Dr. Hickenlooper (Tilda Swinton) assess the situation and Augie realizes he just may have snapped the only photo of an honest to goodness alien.

All the unique and wonderful trademarks of Anderson’s craftsmanship are on display. Both the city itself, and the surrounding stage area where the play is performed, are given distinct aesthetics that benefit equally from Anderson’s commitment to symmetry, palette and depth-of-field.

The wordplay is succinct and witty per usual, dancing through themes of science, art, and Cold War paranoia. But while Anderson’s last film, The French Dispatch, left its procession of indelibly offbeat characters to fend for themselves, this time they’re connected with the sterile humanity that buoys the best of his work.

“You can’t wake up if you don’t fall asleep!”

You’ll hear that several times in Asteroid City, enough to know that Anderson hopes we’re paying attention. Leave yourself open – to what art, and science, is saying – and your world might seem a little more colorful.

Space Stationary


by George Wolf

I don’t know how many jobs are more challenging than astronaut, but there can’t be many. And it is via that intense work experience that French writer/director Alice Winocour’s Proxima ruminates on the career struggles faced by women in every profession.

Eva Green carries this weight gracefully as Sarah, the only female member of a team of astronauts training for a year-long stint at an international space station. This means a year away from her young daughter Stella (Zelie Boulant), who will stay with her father/Sarah’s ex-husband Thomas (Lars Eidinger).

From the moment Sarah is introduced as a crew member by team leader Mike (Matt Dillon), her gender is fodder for subtle (and not so subtle) condescension. Resisting a heavy hand, Winocour (Mustang, Disorder) revels in the details of the job, showcasing the added strain carried only by Sarah.

The setting may center on spaceflight, but this is not a film about going into space. It is about preparing to go into space, preparing to leave your child, and preparing to be separated from your mother. And all of that preparing is work.

Green has never been better, and Winocour continues to display understated insight as a filmmaker. Like that walk among the stars that Sarah has long dreamed about, Proxima is quiet, but often emotionally dazzling.