In “American Dreamer,” we follow the daily life of Dr. Phil Loder (Peter Dinklage), a beleaguered adjunct professor at Harvard University who seems to be caught in an endless cycle of monotony. Driving the same worn-out car, working in a cramped office, and dining on unappetizing vending machine sandwiches, Dr. Loder lectures on economics to disinterested students before retreating to his humble studio apartment. Despite the dreariness surrounding him, Dr. Loder secretly dreams of achieving the elusive American Dream—owning a home. As fate would have it, he stumbles upon a classified ad for a beautiful, affordable manor, with one catch: he must share the house with its elderly, wheelchair-bound owner (played by the quirky Shirley MacLaine) until her eventual passing.
“American Dreamer” is a dark dramedy that struggles to find its footing between the cynical outlook of its protagonist and the whimsical elements of its narrative. The film’s tonal imbalance results in a comedy-drama that ultimately loses its comedic edge, even with the impressive efforts of the always charismatic Peter Dinklage.
Peter Dinklage excels at portraying misanthropic characters, and his role as Phil in “American Dreamer” is no exception. With his expressive face and ability to convey vast emotions, Dinklage effectively brings to life the tormented, cynical protagonist who seems to believe the world is against him. Through flashbacks and conversations with his so-called friends, we learn that Phil was an orphan who experienced a difficult upbringing, bouncing from one foster home to another. This history fuels his longing for a stable home, even as his real estate agent friend, Dell, doubts his financial ability to achieve this goal. Dinklage’s exceptional acting talent should make it easy for audiences to empathize with Phil as he navigates the challenges of pursuing his dream, particularly when the seemingly perfect housing deal begins to unravel. With a captivating lead performance and a compelling narrative, “American Dreamer” is a noteworthy exploration of one man’s quest for stability and happiness in an unpredictable world.
Adapted from a segment on the popular podcast “This American Life,” “American Dreamer” is a tale of aspiration and disillusionment, exploring the human pursuit of happiness in an often unforgiving world. While the movie faces challenges in maintaining its comedic tone, the strong performances from its cast, particularly Dinklage, make it a noteworthy addition to the genre.