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
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