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Dean Movie Review

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Comedians are all over the place in the movie scene now. Last year Mike Birbiglia released Don’t Think Twice, Kumail Nanjiani has The Big Sick being released later in 2017, and Demetri Martin has his directorial debut with Dean. I’m actually a huge fan of stand-up, so seeing all of them bust into films is exciting for me. I’m a big fan of Demetri Martin, and his stand-up is one of the reasons I love comedy as much as I do. I was even lucky enough to interview Martin when he was touring and landed at the Phoenix Film Festival, so if you’d like to see that you can click right HERE! Let’s talk about Dean!

Dean is directed by and stars Demetri Martin as Dean, a man who is trying to grieve in a healthy way after losing his mother. He’s a New York artist who decides to head out to Los Angeles to postpone his father’s sale of the family house. While in LA, he meets a woman, and he falls in love with her. If he even had a path to begin with, she changes it completely.

I talked about how much I love Demetri Martin as a comedian. I think he’s funny, and after meeting him, I thought that he was just as kind as he is hilarious. That’s why I really wish I liked his movie more than I did. Let’s start with the positives. First of all, this movie does get some laughs. If you’re a fan of Demetri Martin then you’ve probably heard him mention “laughs per minute.” Dean is structured extremely similarly to Martin’s comedy which is through one-liners and clean comedy. Not that I’ve ever been against a raunchy use of the R-rating in a comedy, but I really believe that it takes real genius to get a clean laugh, and Martin excels in that area. It should come as no surprise that Martin has impeccable timing and delivery, and his style and approach really came to life. It’s so easy to tell that Martin had complete creative control because the writing, direction, and performances are all on the same page. This movie has one singular brain, and I loved that about it. It also has heart. It’s not a movie that will wreck you or bring you to tears with happiness, joy, or revelations, but it does have heart, and it’s grounded in reason. It goes through the stages of grief almost as they’re listed out, and it takes the comedic and distractive approach to grief that has been proven to be a reaction. When humans experience grief, a very normal reaction is to turn to comedy and other methods to take your brain away from hardships. That was probably my favorite thing about Dean.

Unfortunately I walked away with a lot less than I wanted. To begin, there’s definitely a difference between paying homage to certain films and directly modeling a certain style. The most notable comparison would be to Woody Allen, the king of city-set comedy with a rambling, likable protagonist in love. This has all of the elements of a classic Woody Allen movie, but it feels less comfortable in its own shoes. The rambling and awkward jokes don’t get funnier as they continue, and I wasn’t invested in this love story the way I should have been. The main area I couldn’t find myself connecting to was the female in the relationship. Movies from Allen’s prime were able to have me fully invested in the relationship as a whole, and Dean wasn’t able to do that. In fact, I didn’t even find Dean particularly lovable. A protagonist who fails many times, in major or minor ways, is usually lovable, but I didn’t get that from this character. Next, despite the fact that from a directorial, writing, and performance standpoint, the story itself has lots of turns without rhyme or reason. I like the parallels of chaos in decisions and grief, but the lack of a proverbial train of thought seemed to hurt from an emotional standpoint. Instead of development, it felt as though even Martin wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.

Overall, Dean, to me, is a disappointing and lesser version of a Woody Allen film. If you haven’t seen a Woody Allen film and have no reference point for how much you should really care about the characters, the comedy, the relationships, and the qualities of each component, then it may come across as a quirky and pleasant movie, but it tried so hard and went for this similarity and fell short. Martin proves that he has the comedic timing and delivery to make an effective film, but a stronger story will probably help him rise to the level that it looks like he is trying to achieve. There are great parallels to real life in this movie, and the insanity of grief perfectly mirrored the insanity of Dean’s choices and actions. That was probably my favorite piece of the film. Unfortunately, it tends to meander from those qualities, and it gets lost along the way. In going for a certain style, it loses sense of its best aspect. I’m going to give Dean a 4/10.

Will you be checking out Dean? It opens this weekend exclusively at Harkins Camelview! Comment down in the comment section and let me know your thoughts! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

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Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at movies@pulseradio.fm