American Dresser


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

American Dresser
"On and on it goes, none of it actually bad, none of it actually adding anything."

Bereavement can sometimes inspire us to reflect on other lost loves and on those we have neglected. When John (Tom Berenger) unexpectedly loses his wife to cancer, he recalls another great passion - for his American Dresser motorbike. He's elderly now, still in decent shape but unable to assume that he'll stay that way. He doesn't get on with his daughters, who seem as if they'd be happier if he weren't around. The time has never felt more right to get that motor running and had out on the highway.

Of course, it's never quite that simple. Best friend Charlie (Keith David) has the perfect way of emotionally blackmailing him into letting him come along: his leg will need to be amputated soon so he'll never have the chance to do it again. Along the way they acquire another companion in the shape of director Carmine Cangialosi, whose lazy impression of Brad Pitt's character in Thelma And Louise seems somewhat misplaced and who is clearly up to something shady but who can't be faulted for his ability to fix an ailing bike.John is keen to see the scenery and to visit an old flame along the way, but he also has another reason for making the trip that he's not yet ready to share with anyone.

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There's no denying that America has some beautiful scenery, nor that a motorbike provides one of the best ways to see it - unless, of course, you have a helicopter available. Cangialosi does, and makes the most of it - but as on many a long road trip, all that scenery becomes soporific. The soundtrack is reminiscent of those faux nostalgia albums advertised to middle aged drivers still just too young to have cared about the songs when they came out. The company is pleasant enough but after a while the conversation starts to drag. It's time for a game of I Spy.

I spy backwoods eccentrics cobbled together from dozens of similar films whose directors foolishly believed that if David Lynch or the Cohen brothers could make that shtick interesting, so could they. I spy leggy blondes with paper-thin character profiles acting as decoration. I spy overweight, balding bikers trying to pick fights with folks who don't come from around here. On and on it goes, none of it actually bad, none of it actually adding anything. There are occasional high points. Gina Gershon brings much-needed emotional depth in her brief scenes as John's dead wife. And there's a vignette involving Charlie getting beaten up be racist police officers that's totally out of balance with the tone of the rest of the film. It could almost seem edgy if one hadn't noticed that despite being by far the better actor, David is playing second fiddle to a white guy throughout the rest of the running time.

With its strangely flat ending and lack of anything else remotely unexpected, American Dresser tries to take us on an emotional journey but doesn't really go anywhere.

Reviewed on: 21 Sep 2018
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American Dresser packshot
After his wife dies, an elderly man decides to ride across America on his American Dresser motorbike.

Director: Carmine Cangialosi

Writer: Carmine Cangialosi

Starring: Tom Berenger, Keith David, Carmine Cangialosi, Penelope Ann Miller, Gina Gershon, Becky O'Donohue, Scott Shilstone

Year: 2018

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: US


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