‘Dinner in America’ Review: A Punk-Rock Love Story

Rage is at the center of “Dinner in America,” a film by Adam Rehmeier in which the central characters are at odds with the police, bank tellers, their parents, two-timing bosses and bullying jocks. Fleeing from the cops, Simon (Kyle Gallner) is a punk rocker who leads with anger and violence. Patty (Emily Skeggs) is a naïve 20-year-old eager to break out of her mundane existence, using rock music as an escape. They help each other find their way in a community where both are outcasts.

The fault lines in their relationships with their families and those around them are most apparent at the family dinners they attend, where they clash with strait-laced siblings and parents — like Patty’s father, who can’t handle the spiciness of cumin. The film is an ode to the punk-rock scene of the 1990s Midwest, a space where Simon and Patty both find relief from the dullness of the world around them.

“Dinner in America” delivers on surprise and explosiveness, but much of its offensive language, both racist and homophobic, feels gratuitous in a film that might have otherwise landed as an offbeat love story. There is, perhaps, an argument to be made for representing a time and place truthfully, but because the film does not critically engage with the uglier elements of the society it portrays, these become a distraction. And a viewer might find it difficult to get sucked into the love and music story at its center.

Dinner in America
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes. In theaters.