Friday, September 13, 2019

American Dreamer: Tip Your Driver, So We Can Avoid All This

According to media analysis, a manageable one-dollar tip will greatly increase the profitability of most rides for Uber drives. Unfortunately, Cam has not been getting much in the way of tips, but that is hardly surprising, given his lack of charm. Technically, he works for the fictional “Hail,” but same difference. Anger and desperation will drive him to make some crazy rash decisions in Derrick Borte’s American Dreamer, which opens today in New York.

Cam was once respectable, but that was before he was down-sized out of his IT job and kicked to the curb by his ex-wife. He now lives hand-to-mouth as a ride-share driver and hardly ever sees his son. Life is humiliating especially when he is chauffeuring around Mazz, a regular client who sees the value in Cam’s nondescript, unimpressive wheels for his drug-dealing business.

He pays well, but Mazz clearly enjoys lording his power and money over Cam. Eventually, the driver reaches his breaking point. Fed up with all the sleights life offers him, Cam plans a spectacularly ill-advised caper. Somehow, it goes even worse than we expect. That leaves him in a super-awkward position the next time Mazz summons him.

Honestly, Dreamer is a veritable one-film festival of stunningly bad decision-making and general counter-productivity. Watching this film leads to one face-palm after another. Granted, Cam is most likely wrestling with clinical depression, but it is still hard to believe any mortal man can be so self-defeating and reckless. Yet, when it comes to going off half-cocked, Mazz is nearly as bad.

This could all still have the makings of a perversely entertaining one-darned-thing-after-another noir, were it not for a shocking development that comes along at the midway point and completely sucks the air out of the film. It is just impossible for anything following it to come across as remotely fun.

Nevertheless, Robbie Jones deserves all kinds of credit for his absolutely riveting performance as Mazz. There is something about him that is almost demonic. Jim Gaffigan convincingly slow burns against type as the sad sack Cam, vividly expressing all his pain and humiliation. Yet, Jones still owns the show.

Although the excesses and questionable motivations frequently pull us out of the film, Borte certainly keeps the tension uncomfortably high. It is dark and moody—and ultimately soulless. Regrettably, by over-indulging in heavy-handed social commentary, the film winds up sacrificing credibility. Not recommended, American Dreamer opens today (9/13) in New York, at Cinema Village.