Writer/Director/Comedian Demetri Martin stars alongside Academy Award winner Kevin Kline in this comedic and heartfelt tale about a father and son coming to terms with love, loss and everything in between. Dean (Martin) is an illustrator whose unwillingness to deal with the recent death of his mother means escaping his hometown of New York for an interview with an ad agency in Los Angeles. His retired engineer dad Robert (Kline) takes a more regimented approach to grief, including putting the family home up for sale. Both father and son set out on their own paths to find a new normal as unexpected circumstances and potential new love interests threaten to thwart all plans.
What We Thought:
Comedian Demetri Martin wrote, directed and stars in Dean, a personal take on loss and dating. Martin lost his father at a young age in real life and his character loses his mother in the film.
Martin plays Dean, an illustrator working on his second book trying to deal with the loss of his mother, his father wanting to sell their family house, a new love interest and figuring out what’s next in his career. He escapes to Los Angeles to avoid his father, get over his break up and hopefully find some motivation for his drawings. Most of his recent illustrations deal with death and grief and he needs a new look at life.
In LA he runs into old friends and meets a new woman played by Gillian Jacobs who seems to be the go to Hollywood indie actress in movies about comedy and life. He ends up staying in LA longer than expected because of her, but realizes life doesn’t change or go away if you are avoiding it.
The film is decent enough for a smaller movie. I wanted a bit more from it and thought it was similar in tone to The Big Sick which I had seen recently as well. I wanted something similar to Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice which was a favorite from 2016. It rides the line of comedy and drama, but doesn’t quite get me to where I wanted to be at the end which is truly caring about the characters especially Dean.
I think the reason for that is that too much is going on. The film should be about Dean yet there’s so many side stories. Kevin Kline wants to sell the family home and that’s fine. That’s a good subplot to have. Dean doesn’t know how to handle the emotions of losing his childhood home, but why add a love interest for Kline on top of it? The love interest has zero interaction with Dean and adds nothing to his dilemmas in life. That could be an entirely different movie, a recent widower trying to cope with grief, life after his marriage and dating in today’s world. Kline and Mary Steenburgen would crush that movie. Other than using her as the real estate agent, Steenburgern is pretty pointless to Dean, the character and the film itself.
There is also an old friend who’s dating an actor that plays a vampire that didn’t seem all that necessary. Sure Dean would see old friends in LA, but why have her seem like she wanted to hook up with him and then get all jealous and weird? It seemed out-of-place. There’s a twist on Gillian Jacobs’ character that I won’t spoil, but that seemed like a bit much as well. Maybe if you cut one or two of these things out the rest wouldn’t seem as unnecessary. It’s not an ensemble story like Don’t Think Twice, you don’t need so many substories.
Dean is a pretty decent film, I just wanted a bit more or something different from it. Martin will never be a leading man in a blockbuster, but for a film like this he’s good enough. Jacobs is always good and probably my favorite part of the film. If you like Demetri Martin and it’s playing near you, check it out.
Cast & Crew:
- Demetri Martin
- Gillian Jacobs
- Kevin Kline
- Mary Steenburgen
Recommended If You Like:
- Don’t Think Twice
- The Big Sick
- Demetri Martin