Dean is Demetri Martin’s heartfelt award-winning new film about love, loss, and living with grief, and like everything the quirky comedian does you either love it or hate it. I loved it. All of Martin’s idiosyncracies are on display as usual, with the film blending comedy, animation, and a skewed yet refreshing side-eye toward shared experiences we often don’t, or won’t, talk about openly.
Dean (Martin) is a New York based illustrator dealing with the loss of his mother, but not very well. While on a trip to Los Angeles to find himself, his father (Kevin Kline) struggles with their loss on his own, while stumbling into a new relationship with the realtor (Mary Steenburgen) he’s hired to sell the family home. Each of their divergent paths searching for meaning in this new normal thrust upon them will ultimately lead them back to each other, and the importance of family.
Dean is a truly heartwarming film, without the cloying sweetness many other writers would force into the story. Martin has written an instant indie classic, full of understated pathos that are easily relatable even if you’ve never had a major loss blind side you. The story is genuinely human, and its focus on family is perfectly captured in the honest chemistry between Martin and Kline. The two actors effortlessly capture their different views on grief, without a moment of judgement for the other.
Kline and Steenburgen also share an easy chemistry as their characters struggle with this new relationship, and what it means for each other. The ensemble cast is perfectly assembled, each actor holding their own with ease, wholly understanding and encapsulating the essence of Martin’s script while making it their own. The Hollywood heavyweights and relative newcomers (Gillian Jacobs, Rory Scovel, Ginger Gonzaga, and Reid Scott) all occupying screen space with confidence but never outshining one another.
For a first-time director Martin is more than capable, especially while simultaneously writing and starring as the lead. The animated sequences, while brief, are used to great aplomb and never feel intrusive. The film is quiet and sweetly awkward, much like the comedian himself, and it lets him showcase what his fans love about his performances albeit in a much grander scale than a mere stage. Dean is an extension of Demetri Martin‘s persona in the best possible way.
Dean humanizes the grieving process and the myriad ways we deal with loss, while showing that each has its own merits and drawbacks. It is a quirky, charming, and wholly original look at humanity through the eyes of one of stand-up’s most misunderstood iconoclasts. And I loved every minute.
Dean is on DVD and digital HD now.