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“Dean” is a tremendous filmmaking debut for Demetri Martin

I’ve been waiting a while to talk about this movie. Over a year after its debut at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, Demetri Martin’s filmmaking debut Dean is finally hitting theaters this week. Already a successful comedian and actor, Martin shows off his writing and directing skills in a big way here. Dean is an assured first time behind the camera, to say the least. After winning a prize at Tribeca last year, the flick was picked up for release by CBS Films and has sat back for over a year, biding its time. Now, the film is coming out and I’m here to remind you that it was well worth the wait. Few releases this year have been better. It’s a special work.

Here’s a bit on the movie itself. As previously mentioned, Martin writes, directs, and stars in this dramedy about grief. Martin’s title character is an animator struggling with the loss of his mother, something his father Robert (Kevin Kline) is going through as well, having obviously lost the love of his life. The latter is attempting to move on by selling the family house, while the former takes advantage of a work related meeting to escape to Los Angeles for a bit. They go about their processes differently, but both are sprung from their respective ruts by new women, Nicky (Gillian Jacobs) for Dean, a girl he meets at an LA party, and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) for Robert, who is his realtor. Laughs and plenty of emotion ensue. Besides triple duty for Martin and the aforementioned cast, there’s also Ginger Gonzaga, Reid Scott, and Rory Scovel on hand in supporting parts. Take my word for it…this is really good stuff. It won’t be the last time I mention the movie Dean this year, trust me there. It’s easily one of 2017’s best so far.

What makes the flick work so well, above all else, is Martin’s handling of tone. From the morbidly funny little sketches that pop up all the time (and actually are essential to the plot) to how the relationships turn out, nothing is was or denied its inherent complexity. It’s across the board impressive. Plus, reuniting Kline and Steenburgen once again is very nice, coming from a big fan of Life as a House. Martin has an eye for talent, and not just his own. Personally, I can’t wait to see what he does next behind the camera. He’s an exciting new filmmaker with something important to say.

Awards wise, Dean is probably a hard sell outside of the independent precursors. Still, it’s worthy of some notice and attention. In a perfect world, it would at least get a serious campaign in Best Picture, Best Director (for Martin), Best Actor (also for Martin), Best Supporting Actor (for Kline), Best Supporting Actress (for Jacobs and Steenburgen), and Best Original Screenplay (for Martin as well). Basically, in some way, shape, or form, Martin should be recognized for what he’s achieved here. Hopefully the Spirit Awards or the Gotham Awards take heed. The film, and his work on it, deserves to be remembered at the end of the year.

On Friday, indie audiences can see what I’ve been raving about at last when Dean starts hitting theaters. Martin has accomplished something that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Easily one of the best small films of the year, it’s also just one of 2017’s best in general. I’d put it in my top five for the year so far overall, and that’s high praise. It has a definite shot at sticking through on my top ten list all throughout the rest of 2017. Stay tuned to see if that happens, but make it your business to see this movie. You won’t regret it one bit…

Be sure to check out Dean, beginning its theatrical run this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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