Roger Ebert Home

American Dreamer

Home ownership is considered a staple of economic stability for most Americans. So, if you were given the opportunity to buy a $5 million dollar mansion ‘as is’ for $240,000 knowing when the owner expires you could hit the real estate jackpot, would you go for it or not?

Based on a true story from Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life, Paul Dektor's "American Dreamer" tells the story of Phil Loder (Peter Dinklage), a twice-divorced, underpaid professor of economics, who dreams of home ownership that seems to be tragically out of reach for his budget. However, when an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presents itself, Phil strikes a deal with Astrid Finnelli (Shirley MacLaine), a childless, near-death widow who’s offering her sprawling estate for a nominal amount. But Phil quickly discovers the deal is too good to be true and the American dream is not quite what it used to be.

Emmy winner Peter Dinklage is a perfect thespian match for the legendary Shirley MacLaine when it comes to curmudgeon-laced dialogue, while simultaneously giving these characters so much heart and grit that audiences will be inspired to reach into the screen to give them a hug. They're a wonderful duo, and it's their contributions and chemistry that anchor the film.

Combined with some insanely dangerous and comical stunts, Dinklage makes Phil lovable and relatable.  MacLaine hasn’t lost that edgy comedic energy audience love to witness her inhabit onscreen. There’s even a slight nod in the dialogue to past lives, which she has spoken and written about often over the years. Matt Dillon, Danny Glover, Kim Quinn, and Danny Pudi round out this perfectly cast flick with each character bringing some spice and flavor to each scene they inhabit.

Although immensely entertaining, Theodore Melfi’s screenplay has some unexplained potholes here and there which will have audiences scratching their heads from time to time. Regardless, it’s clear that director Paul Dektor’s empathy and heart dwell in the right place for a story ultimately asking the questions of what one needs to be happy, how far we are willing to go to achieve it, and what role does loneliness play in these life-altering decisions?

 

Now playing

Lousy Carter
Femme
Manhunt
The Long Game
Dogman

Film Credits

American Dreamer movie poster

American Dreamer (2024)

106 minutes

Cast

Peter Dinklage as Dr. Phil Loder

Shirley MacLaine as Astrid Fanelli

Danny Pudi as Craig

Kimberly Quinn as Maggie Pennington

Danny Glover

Matt Dillon as Dell

Director

Screenplay

Latest blog posts

Comments

comments powered by Disqus