Fans of stand-up comic Demetri Martin admire the comedian for his deadpan stylings and his detached persona, commenting on the rest of modern society through witty and dry observation.
His puns, plays-on-words, and general irony on all matters make his shtick and style one that’s enjoyable to commiserate and laugh with. However, in the indie comedy ‘Dean,’ which Martin wrote and directed as well as stars in as the titular character, Martin delivers a mild and familiar tale of New York and Los Angeles hipster moroseness. Unfortunately, last year’s Tribeca Jury Award Winner for Best Narrative Feature sees Martin conform as a familiar hapless hipster trying to overcome writer’s block, arrested development, shortcomings in love, and general self-pity, making Martin’s last outing a disappointing dud.
As writer and director, Martin gives his personal life the semi-autobiographical treatment, as modern indie auteur fictionalizations treatment akin to ‘Girls’ and ‘Master of None’ have so recently done. Playing Dean, an illustrator who makes wry cartoons similar to New Yorker cartoons with a Woody Allen death-obsession bend, in where a looming Grim Reaper looms in his cartoons is large. These moments certainly shine more than Dean going through the motions of sulking as a depressed illustrator as merely a sketch of a person itself, who, after being confronted with his father’s (Kevin Kline) decision to sell their family house after the recent passing of his mother, takes an impromptu trip to LA to figure out his life. Kevin Kline, self-help lover and couch lover, is visited by Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and a middle age romance is hinted at, which is almost half the movie, and also shows how also inadequately in love and confused we all are next to Dean.
…”Dean” trades all of Martin’s interesting personality for a more conventional and formulaic hipster comedy that is largely as insufferable as he is.
An impromptu trip to LA has Martin get to show how much of a cog he is in the system as well as outside the system of hipster nonsense. LA brings about cliches about Vampire teen shows and “improv” comedy until he meets Nicky (Gillian Jacobs) as the quintessential LA girl you see her pixie self in Netflix’s “Love,” falling for another hapless fella here. They have tepid romance and conversation, but after a quick return back to LA, it points out that nothing is happening, about as safe and boring as it could be.
While Martin has made a name for himself as an ironically detached and deadpan comic, ‘Dean’ trades all of Martin’s interesting personality for a more conventional and formulaic hipster comedy that is largely as insufferable as he is. While there are interesting storylines related to his father’s unluck in love, as well as Martin’s drawings and cartoons (personally, I would have loved to have seen an entire movie about just his cartoonist exploits), other movies about depressed illustrators trying to get our of their life ruts worth checking out are the Jemaine Clement starrer “People Places Things” as well as Mike Nichols’ “Beginners.”
87 min. ‘Dean’ is rated PG-13 for language and some suggestive material. In theaters this Friday.