This movie rides a razor’s edge. It says things in a time when you’re not allowed to say them. It does things in a time when everybody expects you to not do them.
Misfits of the world unite in Adam Rehmeier’s unwavering dedication to weirdness—and endlessly hysterical!—Dinner In America, which is destined for (and truly deserving of) cult classic status.
Set against the backdrop of an anywhere American suburb, Dinner In America is buoyed by the winning chemistry between its two leads, which is arguably the film’s greatest asset. Kyle Gallner is Simon, an aggro runaway, who’s on the lam again after a bout of arson. Snarling in a bomber jacket and powering down pavements, he’s a cesspool of resentment and alienation. When the fuzz nearly got him cornered, he’s saved by Emily Skeggs’ Patty, a young woman who’s awkward in so many ways that her interpersonal clunkiness sees her otherwise branded “a retard.” Initially offering up her family home as a place to hide out, hijinks ensue, with the pair getting into a series of scrapes around town like a low-rent Bonnie and Clyde. Meanwhile, Patty is blindly unaware of the fact that Simon leads a double life as John Q, a balaclava-donning punk-rock frontman and the object of her long-term, masturbatory fan correspondence. Then, an oddball romance blossoms.
Always a dependable screen presence, but perhaps lacking a signature role—until now—Gallner chews up every scene as Simon. This is a role of substance, and Gallner is altogether captivating.
Dinner In America hits select theaters on May 27th, and Digital and On Demand on June 7th.
Hi, Kyle. It just occurred to me that this is actually our first interview. That is a crime.
Yeah, I don’t know why. [laughs]
You’re not going to remember this, but we did a photoshoot on the rooftop of some hotel in Manhattan during the Tribeca Film Festival like a decade ago.
I was in the blue and white striped shirt.
I cannot believe you remember that! You were in Magic Valley. That’s how long ago this was.
I know. I looked like a babyyy.
You’ve been really banging the drum with Dinner In America, and I’m right there with you. Everyone needs to watch this. It makes me wanna go A Clockwork Orange on people.
Pull their eyeballs open? [laughs]
Exactly. I had no idea you had this comic bone in your body. This role fits you like a glove. Did you have any way of knowing you were making a film that’s destined for cult status?
The script was really special. I read it and it was one of those things where you’re like, “This is different. This is something else. This character is really interesting. This relationship is really interesting.” Then I met with Adam [Rehmeier] and it’s like, “This guy is really cool, and he really has a good grasp on what this is gonna be.” But you just never know! A couple days in filming, it’s one of those things where it’s just so fun and so different than so many other things I’ve worked on. So you just hope it really connects with people. I think the energy of filming the movie comes through on screen. It’s almost like that saying, “When you cook, you gotta cook with love” kind of thing. I think that comes out. I think people are really attaching themselves to it. I mean, people who love it, love it. We have tons of fan art, people are making dolls—all sorts of stuff. So I think at this point, it’s just about getting eyes on it. That’s the uphill indie climb, especially in a world right now where there’s so much content. How do you come out on top?
It must make the promo process much easier, too, when you’re proud of the work you did.
It does. It really does. It doesn’t feel forced. It doesn’t feel like anyone’s twisting my arm. I’m actively fighting for this movie. I’m happily fighting for this movie. No one’s telling me to post videos or do this, do that. I am just cramming this thing down people’s throats as much as I can. I’m like, “Who do I know that’s actually famous that could talk about this?” [laughs] So, I’m trying. We all are. We all really love this movie a lot. And I’ve made plenty of things that I think are fine or like, but don’t love. And other things that I’ve enjoyed and liked, I’ve pushed. This is one of those things where I really want to fight for this movie. I want people to see this one because I really do think it’s something special. I think it’s something people can really attach themselves to and enjoy, especially in such a crazy time. It feels like a good movie for right now.
I know Emily [Skeggs] has said that about you, too: you’re honest about the quality of all the films you’ve done. She also said that you will deliver on every role, and that’s something I’ve noticed as well. You take your performances to the finish line. That seems important to you.
Well, it is. It’s such a difficult industry, right? And you have so many people that wanna do it. If you are fortunate enough to get a job and be on set—first of all, you’ve accepted that job. Good, bad or ugly, you’ve accepted it. If you’re gonna show up and not deliver, you are disrespecting every single person there. It’s hard to make a movie, even a bad movie. Just to get a movie across the finish line is really hard, you know? So even if a movie’s not great, it’s like, “You fucking did it, man. Good job.” So to show up and not do your best? It’s kind of like slapping everybody else in the face. If you took it, you go play. You give it everything you got, no matter what. But yeah, I have no problem being honest. I know I’ve made some…stuff. [laughs]
You play a punk rocker, and there is something very punk rock about this movie, too. It’s unPC in a time where we’re all expected to be so over-the-top PC. I wonder if that scared you at the beginning because if the movie wasn’t as funny as it is or if it didn’t transcend with the emotional core that it has, maybe it would’ve been a problem.
Yeah, it absolutely would’ve been a problem. I think this movie rides a razor’s edge. When everything starts to shift, you’re right at a point of Simon basically being unforgivable or insufferable like, “Oh my god, I don’t know if I can deal with this.” I think that’s honestly what scared a lot of distributors, too. The first 20 minutes are really intense. It’s a lot. But at the same time, I think what people missed the point of is that that is the point, you know? I think people like to sort of put things in a box. The back two-thirds of the movie is funny and kind of romantic so they’re like, “Well, what happened here?” They almost think of it like, “There’s a tonal thing that wasn’t handled right.” No, no, no, no, no. It’s supposed to make you uncomfortable. It’s supposed to make you squirm. You’re supposed to see the reality that you would rather cover up. The world is still racist and sexist and hateful. Those people exist. Those bullies exist. They’re still tearing people down. You have to paint Patty’s reality with that dark a brush so that she has somewhere to go. You have to show Simon in this sort of manic, super intense place so he has somewhere to go with Patty. To pretend that the world isn’t this way is an interesting thing: you realize how many people would rather believe that’s not how this is. It’s like, “Sorry, guys. That’s the reality of the world.” We would be at Sundance screenings and people would raise their hands, and I remember one woman in particular who was like, “I was Patty on the bus. Every day on the bus with those guys? That was me.” This is people’s reality. Just because it’s not yours, it doesn’t mean it’s not someone else’s. It does skirt that razor line. It says things in a time when you’re not allowed to say them. It does things in a time when everybody expects you to not do them. But, again, it shifts and then it becomes a totally different thing. And like you said, I do think that if it was handled improperly or done differently, then yeah, it would’ve been a problem.
You just hope that people stay with it because there’s an arc happening. Don’t turn it off.
That’s the thing. That’s the disclaimer: just stick it out! I promise, I promise, I promise!
You previously said that a big fear you had going into this was who was going to play Patty because she informs who Simon is, and they, together, dictate what the relationship is. Was there a moment when you realized you had found the perfect partner in Emily?
There was actually. Patty I think in the wrong hands doesn’t work. It doesn’t work and it becomes a different thing. The relationship could very easily become inappropriate or weird or not work the way it’s supposed to. Emily’s the best. She’s just the best. [laughs] She killed it. We had two weeks of rehearsal and we got to know each other. We got really close. But there was one moment in particular when we all got together to sit down for Adam and Emily to write the “Watermelon” song, and Emily had written in a notebook like stream of consciousness poetry as Patty. Just random stuff. She started reading some out loud and that was my first moment of being like, “Okay, this is who Patty is. This is where Emily’s coming from. So this is what we’re doing.” That’s when it hit me for the first time like, “This is perfect. This is exactly what it’s supposed to be.” Then she just started being Patty, and I was like, “This is amazing.”
This is when that saying, that 90% or whatever high percentage of making a good movie hinges on casting, feels accurate. You just can’t imagine anyone else in these roles.
I agree. And it’s just interesting to see characters like this brought to life. You’re seeing the usual peripheral characters front and center. How many times have you seen a Patty lead a movie?
Rarely. And especially women, man! It’s almost never.
Dinner In America has a distinct 90s vibe and Adam clearly intended for that. You also revisited another 90s cultural touchstone this year with the ultimate slasher—Scream. Was the 90s memorable to you where movies are concerned? Do you have fond memories?
I do! We were a movie household. That’s what we did. We watched movies all the time and that really followed me into my twenties. I used to drive myself to the theaters at night to go see a movie by myself. I know there’s still a lot of original content, which is great, and I think streaming has allowed for that to enter people’s homes a little easier like, “If you can’t make it to Sundance, you can watch it on Hulu.” But what I do miss is the variety of films that were available in theaters. I miss being able to see as many different kinds of movies in theaters as we used to be able to, you know? Whereas now, it’s like a Marvel movie takes up 20 out of 25 theaters at an AMC, and this other movie is in there for a week and that’s it. That to me is a bummer because I love the collective experience of seeing a film with an audience. You’ll still get that from those Marvel films and things like that because it’s the moviegoing experience, but you also kind of know what you’re getting when you walk into something like that. It doesn’t dampen it in any way because it’s what you want, but going to see Alien or Jurassic Park or The Shawshank Redemption or Goodfellas in the theater? To think that The Godfather would be an Amazon Original right now is like, “Wait… What?” [laughs] It was just a different time, and I loved it. I loved going to the movies. My mom loves movies. I went to the movie theater when I was way too young and saw Highlander with my mom. She took me to see stuff. It was great. It was a lot of fun.
Fortunately, I saw Dinner In America at a genre film festival so I had the theater experience. It’s made for a collective viewing experience. This movie is full of applause-burst moments.
Oh hell yeah. It’s so fun! I mean, that was the coolest thing about Sundance: being in those big theaters and having moments where people would literally cheer for Patty. They’re clapping and yelling when she finally looks at me like, “I’m just fucking with you.” The whole place lit up. They’re laughing along. The collective gasp. You get that church giggle where somebody finds something weird funny and then everybody starts to find it funny, too, like with the toilet paper tower. It’s little things like that. It is a very fun movie to see in theaters. It’s like The Breakfast Club or The Graduate. You’re cheering on these characters and you’re with them. You’re with them on a slice-of-life journey. You watch them for this much and that’s it. You get to look into their lives this much and you’re with them for that moment. Then you miss them when they’re gone.
I need more. Maybe Adam will gift us with a blooper reel at some point.
I bet Adam cut some super weird shit out. [laughs] I bet you could find some bizarro stuff. And there have been talks like, “What if we did a limited series or something?” But people just need to see the movie, you know? They need to want it, and if enough people want it, I will gladly strap the combat boots on and put the mohawk back on—no problem. I loved playing Simon.