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American Dreamer

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: American Dreamer

Starring: JoBeth Williams, Tom Conti
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Rated: PG
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: October 1984
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Giancarlo Giannini, Coral Browne, James Staley, C.B. Barnes

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

My wife rented one of her favorite old movies for us to watch again, the 1984 comedy and fantasy called AMERICAN DREAMER. If you like romantic fairy tales and light hearted comedies, then you may find this is the simple sort of fable perfect for a rainy day.

Cathy Palmer (JoBeth Williams) is a housewife and would be writer. Her favorite books are the Rebecca Ryan series. Rebecca is a brilliant international spy who is fluent in five languages and is a martial arts master. Cathy dreams of being Rebecca. Who among us has had not similar dreams?

One day she enters a writing contest where the author who writes in a style closest to that of the Rebecca Ryan novels will win a trip to Paris where Rebecca is based. Cathy wins, but her controlling husband Kevin (James Staley), who claims he is too busy at work to join her, informs her "It would be selfish, childish and irresponsible to go, but I'm not going to tell you not to go. I'm going to leave that decision up to you."

Her husband is a cliche, but this is a comedy. When they are laying in bed at night, she wants to make love, but he says he has "accounts," and so at first he declines. He has their bed littered with his paperwork ("accounts") from the office. He even has an electric pencil sharpener beside him so that he can grind up a fresh one without leaving their bed.

Needless to say, she ignores her husband and heads off by herself to Paris. Once there she has a feeling of genuine exhilaration with her new success and independence. The fun starts when she gets hit on the head in an accident. When she wakes up, you guessed it, she is convinced that she is Rebecca Ryan.

She tells people at the Embassy ball in Paris that, "I'm Rebecca Ryan, and I can drink any man here under the table." She does. She even quotes Nietzsche ("What doesn't destroy me makes me stronger") in the original German to the people she meets. The show gets really loony at this point, but Williams plays the role with great panache and with her good sense of comedic timing pulls it off brilliantly. I love watching Williams. Makes you want to go live your dreams.

Along the way she meets people whom she is convinced are other characters from the novels. Chief among these is Victor Marchand (Tom Conti). Conti, who was good during this period of his acting career, is sweet here. His main purpose is to be a foil to Williams.

AMERICAN DREAMER was directed by Rick Rosenthal and written by David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf based on a story by Ann Biderman. The script is lighted hearted and funny, and the director's pacing is zany. The success of the show, however, should be credited to Williams. Comedy is a personal taste, and for me this show is a fun romp.

AMERICAN DREAMER runs about an hour and a half. It is rated PG for reasons of which I am not quite sure. There is no sex, nudity, violence or bad language. It would be fine for any kid old enough to be interested in a comedy featuring adults. I recommend this little picture to you and give it ***.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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