Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Manuel on two grief-driven features.
Dean (Winner of The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature)
Dean (Demetri Martin, who wrote and directed the film) is a professional illustrator whose first book of drawings was described as “full of whimsy.” The same could be said for the film itself. Just as Dean’s illustrations (Martin’s own) are simple, at times humorous, sketches (a faceless man wearing a t-shirt that reads “Ask me about my face,” a centaur to a horse-headed human body: “It’s not bestiality if we 69!”), the film finds comedy in simplicity; there are some surprises here but mostly this is a straightforward affair. You could say that Dean is a whimsical bicoastal dramedy about grief and it succeeds precisely because it's so assured.
Brooklyn-based Dean has lost his mother, and the narrative follows his attempt at coping with this loss. His father, played with relish by Kevin Kline, is seemingly moving on too fast, wanting to sell the house he shared with his wife, a decision that pushes Dean to flee to Los Angeles. Both men find themselves engaging with women that help push them past their comfort zones. Lessons are learnt, and personal growth is unavoidable, but Martin uses the film’s whimsy to his advantage: split-screens and his quirky drawings visually highlight the levity that runs through his script (a meet-cute with Gillian Jacobs is impossibly twee and surprisingly spunky at the same time). That I’m using words like “whimsy” and “twee” in positive terms should tell you that I fell in love with this film even as I know it works within a very specific register that may not be for everyone; then again, any film that gives Mary Steenburgen and Kline a flirtatious scene centered on criticizing a Broadway play about (maybe?) time travel was always going to appeal to my interests. Grade: A-
Susan Sarandon shines after the jump...