Combustible Celluloid
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With: Demetri Martin, Kevin Kline, Gillian Jacobs, Rory Scovel, Christine Woods, Ginger Gonzaga, Peter Scolari, Briga Heelan, Reid Scott, Mary Steenburgen
Written by: Demetri Martin
Directed by: Demetri Martin
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some suggestive material
Running Time: 87
Date: 06/02/2017

Dean (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Dean' Days

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer, actor (Taking Woodstock), illustrator, and stand-up comic Demetri Martin successfully adds "director" to his resume with this somewhat familiar, but funny and emotionally truthful comedy-drama.

In Dean, the title character (Demetri Martin) is an illustrator in New York City, dealing with the loss of his mother. His relationship with his fiancee goes south, and a stint as a best man at a wedding and a job interview are disasters. At the same time, his father (Kevin Kline) is going through his own grief process, which involves the sale of Dean's childhood home.

Unable to handle this, Dean suddenly decides to go to Los Angeles to look up some old friends. At a party, he is instantly smitten by Nicky (Gillian Jacobs), and extends his trip to spend more time with her, but a series of mishaps changes his plans. Meanwhile, his father has struck up a tentative new relationship with a real estate agent (Mary Steenburgen). Dean must decide whether or not he can face his new reality.

It helps that, rather than predictably making his character stand-up comic, Martin instead uses his simple, bittersweet, and hilarious real-life illustrations to help widen the movie, give it a fresh, visual flourish. Dean uses these to find the character's inner life at crucial moments.

It's difficult to tell a story about a character that avoids things, but Martin's screenplay concocts enough bizarre, almost surreal sequences and offbeat ideas that the movie itself plunges forward, even when the hero is stuck. He also casts many expert actors around him.

Especially good are the veterans Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen (their third movie together after Life As a House and Last Vegas). But even the actors in the tiniest of parts create all kinds of minute, magical interactions, both hilarious and touching.

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