Director: Demetri Martin
Runtime: 87 minutes
It’s nothing short of surprising how far Woody Allen’s influence in indie cinema has reached. Because of him we now have several observant New York film directors doing rather well in creating movies that tell, in an economic 90 minutes, a slice of life of a New Yorker going through some kind of trauma, while always maintaining a solid sense of humor. Demetri Martin, an actor and director whose work I barely know, debuted last year at the Tribeca Film Festival with this cute little comedy about grief as told through the mind and imagination of Martin’s alter-ego Dean, a successful comic book artist who continually evokes the Grim Reaper in almost everything he draws (which is almost all the time — and he shows his illustrations, often which provide a nice dose of humor to make a point).
After the death of his mother, Dean finds himself in a rut unable to create and has just broken up with his girlfriend. He’s also at an emotional crossroad with his father (played by Kevin Kline in a subtle turn) who has decided to sell the house and move into a smaller space. In an impulse he travels clear across the country, lands in LA, meets some cool hipsters, among them a girl (Gillian Jacobs, last seen in Don’t Think Twice) who is all but perfect . . . which is part of the problem. Dean is one of these barely there movies that really need to be seen to witness an incisive slice of life that attempts to portray the awkwardness of moving through life while trying to pick up the pieces left behind. This is a solid debut from a young director who has a keen ear for sharp dialogue along with pretty good performances by its mainly young cast (although Mary Steenburgen also manages to breathe life into her rather wispy, brief role as Kline’s real estate agent with whom he tentatively starts a relationship with.