Grief-stricken tale feels familiar
Everybody’s grief may take different shapes, but comedian Demetri Martin’s movie about it, “Dean,” resembles a lot of other joke/ mope/joke/emo-music movies. Writer-director Martin, a deadpan wit as stand-up and illustrator, also plays the title character, a Brooklyn-based cartoonist floundering over the recent death of his mother.
With his practical minded dad (Kevin Kline) intent on selling the family home, a friend (Reid Scott) getting married, and the continued presence of an exfiancée (Christine Woods) clouding his judgment, Dean hits the escape hatch and flies to Los Angeles. There he meets beautiful straight shooter Nicki (Gillian Jacobs) and pins his coping future on their romantic spark, while back home, dad gingerly woos his real estate agent (Mary Steenburgen).
Aside from the use of Martin’s amusing drawings as inserted commentary, many featuring the Grim Reaper as a kind of sidekick, this is regrettably derivative, low-boil material. It’s almost afraid to invite messiness or insightful belly laughs, and remains content to cruise on a wispy likability.
The real disappointment is that it’s even difficult to care about a nice widowed engineer and a kind real estate agent played by Oscarwinning actors. By the time “Dean” ends, the most it will have done is trigger a list of more memorable movies worth revisiting from the likes of Woody Allen, Paul Mazursky, Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson.
“Dean.” Rated: PG-13, for language and some suggestive material. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. Playing: Landmark, West L.A.
DEAN (DEMETRI MARTIN) and his father (Kevin Kline) face a loss and go their separate ways.