In an unremarkable directorial debut from actor Nicol Paone, and randomly produced by The Heartbreak Kid co-stars Ben Stiller and Malin Akerman, Dinner with Friends features pals Molly and Abby (Akerman, Kat Dennings) hosting a small Thanksgiving that gradually becomes more outrageous as the night progresses. The guest list grows, and the entertainment evolves the get-together into more of a party where magic mushrooms and sexcapades become a primary topic of discussion. There isn’t much of a plot, because individual arcs are supposed to keep the story afloat.
Appearing to be a lark between famous faces and looking as if it was shot over a weekend, the transparency of Dinner with Friends is stunningly sheer and sloppy. I want to believe that Paone intended to give movie goers the experience of attending an exclusive party with friendly, off-the-wall personalities.. But, because there are so many baggy scenes of actors mingling, the viewer always feels like a bored stranger. We don’t necessarily grasp why we should care about these characters’ worries because proper introductions and follow-up developments are missing. We watch guests wander into the frame, hang out, and then leave to have a laugh and try on funny costumes for an on-site snapshot station. The only connection we have to the characters are to the identities of the actual cast, who are mostly vaguely recognizable character actors who can steal a spotlight but slum it here. And aside from a few amusing lines from Kat Dennings (TV’s 2 Broke Girls, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) and a fleeting appearance by a New Age shaman played by Chelsea Peretti (TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Spinster), Dinner with Friends isn’t very funny either; more often than not deciding crude language is the key to a good laugh.
It looks like everyone had a fun time making this movie. It would’ve been nice to be included.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie