‘Melvin Goes to Dinner’ (dir. Bob Odenkirk) is an intimate, personal and ultimately comforting film exploring the relationships and personal lives of four people having dinner together. Its incredible performances and visual storytelling, combined with an excellent script, create a touching, heart-warming experience.
The film, which can be found on Netflix, centres on Melvin, a man who has reached a rut in his life and is sleeping in his sister’s office. Screenwriter Michael Blieden (who also wrote the play that the film is based on) gives an authentically awkward performance as Melvin, with the rest of the cast supporting that role perfectly. The whole cast is on point in this, with all of them creating incredibly real characters with real issues. The authenticity of the cast serves to mirror the audience, who may not relate to the character’s situations, but will definitely relate to the cathartic nature of opening up to people.
The performances carry a superb script, with excruciatingly authentic dialogue and a masterfully constructed narrative which forms a beautiful puzzle that is incredibly rewarding when completed. The structure of the film is genius, with scenes taking place only when they are important, which, although initially disorientating, allows us to follow the conversation as it happens, rather than focussing on the subtext that is revealed later on. It is clear to see that this was adapted from a stage play, but the abilities of the film medium are utilised well, not allowing for stagnation.
Both the performances and script are supplemented by the incredible cinematography. The intimate, handheld camera work done by Alex Vendler injects the audience into the restaurant, immersing them in the story, and thus increasing the emotional investment in the characters. The flashback scenes, shown in stills, accentuate the feeling of being told a story, and allows the audience to focus on the story being told, rather than the event itself. Hearing the way that each character tells their story, when contrasted with the images on screen, gives an insight into both the character and their situation. This also allows for the emotion of the speaker to carry the story, rather than the objective truth. This method of visual storytelling further acts to immerse us into the restaurant scene, as we don’t have flashbacks removing us from the room; we remain with the characters throughout.
Overall, ‘Melvin Goes to Dinner’ is a thoroughly enjoyable film experience that most will be able to relate to on some level. The authenticity of both the script and the performances create real, sympathetic characters, investing us in their issues and finding catharsis with them as they open up to their friends. 4.5 Stars.