DEAN Review: A Slice of Awkward Grief

DEAN Review: A Slice of Awkward Grief

Stand-up comedian turned actor, writer and director Demetri Martin makes his directorial debut with his somber comedy, Dean. The tagline claims this little independent film is “A Comedy About Tragedy,” which I would disagree with. Yes, there are comedic elements to Dean, but the drama of the tragedy outweighs the comedy in what may be one of the biggest surprises of 2017 thus far. Dean is a New York-based illustrator who falls hard for an LA woman (Gillian Jacobs) while trying to prevent his father (Kevin Kline) from selling the family home in the wake of his mother’s death.

What Dean as a film achieves is taking a story that is so familiar to audiences, and elevating that formula with a stellar cast and performances that are wonderfully realized. Demetri Martin is perfect as the awkwardly lovable Dean. The pain he is obviously going through is always present, but expertly subdued by Martin. We all know that look we make when we are trying to come across as content, while secretly hiding pain and sorrow internally. Martin excels at this, making for a performance that doesn’t quite feel like a performance, which is a great compliment to the multi-talented Demetri Martin.

The rest of the supporting cast bring that same level of nuance to their respective roles. Gillian Jacobs is adorable as Nicky. Fans of the series “Love” will be pleasantly surprised, as she basically plays a toned-down version of her character from the acclaimed series. Jacobs perfectly offsets Martin, making their relationship believable and a joy to witness.

The standout of the supporting cast is without question the legendary Kevin Kline. An actor of his caliber could’ve easily phoned in a performance in a small film like “Dean.” Luckily Kline’s performance is the exact opposite of that. Kline’s Robert is a grieving man, someone who truly is lost without their soulmate. Conversations he has with his son, Dean, are the best parts of the film. They are full of creatively somber dialogue while also adding a slight touch of humor to keep us smiling while we are weeping.

Martin uses illustrations drawn by himself throughout the movie to tell the story in a unique way. Sure, the drawings are a bit “on the nose,” if you will, but the fact that they were drawn by Demetri Martin himself adds a layer of passion to his project. That all being said, the film is undeniably predictable, and will more than likely fall through the cracks in the present-day market of feature films that are out.

Yes, we’ve seen this story done over and over again. I would still highly recommend Dean for those who are looking for an easy but meaningful watch. Demetri Martin has proven that he has directing and acting chops well beyond comedy and that enough is worth watching this brisk 87-minute drama/comedy. Grab yourself some tissues, a blanket and watch this story created by someone whose passion is undeniable.

Dean is out now in select theaters.

@Nick_Casaletto

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