Ep 11.5: American Dreamer

Last week we talked about the idea that so many of the movies we’d seen had good structure and good comedy but failed with the romance which brought the whole movie down, and we wondered what would happen if we found a movie with a strong romance and a flawed structure. And now we have in American Dreamer and we know that the romance will carry the movie even if the plot is a mess because we’re so emotionally involved with the characters. And Lucy, who was a virgin to this movie, says that she’ll absolutely watch it again for the great romance (Tom Conti squee from both of us here) even though she still doesn’t know what the hell was going on with the mystery plot. I know what was going on with the mystery plot because I’ve seen the movie a million times, and it’s still an awful plot. I don’t care. I love this movie. Lesson learned: Nail the romance and you can get away with murder. Get the podcast: Listen here at PopD | Go to iTunes

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Lucy says: 4 Pops ~ Because I’d watch it again in a heartbeat. Lucy’s rating breakdown: Structure: 1, Comedy: 4, Romance: 5

Jenny says: 4 Pops ~ Because the romance is so strong. Jenny’s rating breakdown: Structure: 1, Comedy: 4, Romance: 5

Movie Info:

Story: Cathy Palmer loves romance novels, so she enters a contest to write a scene in a Rebecca Ryan novel and wins a trip to Paris. Trouble ensues. Release Date: October 26, 1984 Director: Rick Rosenthal Writers: Ann Biederman, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf. More info at IMDb.

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8 responses to “Ep 11.5: American Dreamer”

  1. The reason the plot is hard to follow is because the mystery part isn’t connected anywhere but in her mind by substituting real people for characters in a Rebecca Ryan novel.

    As for the Priest, he was carrying a jeweled cross which since he hid it in his robe as running away, it appears he was stealing it. He confessed he had to do it because he was being blackmailed. He was in it mainly I think because “all” mystery suspense novels have a priest, right? And I believe she mentions a priest early in her meetings w/Dimitri – the priest never showed. I suspect he was a character in a R. Ryan novel.

    Victor was Vincent in a R. Ryan novel.

    The Spanish ambassador’s spying confession was more of a comedy bit to show how the mind retains things that we can’t access consciously. The bit of German that the language tape played – funny when she first hears it, with a WTH moment as to why on a beginner’s learning tape you’d have them learn a Nietzsche phrase and then again when her brain pulls it out of her head – the little bit of German she’s heard – which turns out to be a secret phrase that would have the Spanish ambassador kill himself. So, another small secret plot that she uncovers that really is nothing but coincidence.

    I do like your change of having Alan pick her to have her come to Paris, but would it give it away that he was the author of the R. Ryan novels?

    A side note, until listening to the two of you, I didn’t ever think of her as a writer. She’s a housewife and a mother who dabbled in a thing for a contest. The thing was to write a sample in the style of the R. Ryan novels, but writing a short story didn’t anchor her as a writer to me.

    I don’t remember if I was at all concerned about the kids at the airport when she pulled her passport back. Mind you, when I saw it in 1984 I was in high school.

    As for Tom Conti, I’m so with both. LOVE him especially as Alan. Perfect hero!

    Jenny – we’ll be with you on twitter on Friday, even if Lani bails.

  2. I’m also wondering if the poll is going to be a little mixed up. There is one vote for NRC which might be for The Apartment, or so I hope.

  3. The problem with the priest being blackmailed in a separate plot and the Spanish ambassador being a spy in another plot is that the viewer/reader tries to synthesize everything in a story to make it make sense. And you can’t make it make sense. You never hear about the priest’s blackmail again, you never see the Spanish ambassador again, but both are given enough story space that the viewer tries to make them part of the plot. I realize it’s all part of the Ryan fantasy, but the viewer also knows that these things are happening in real life, the priest really is being blackmailed, so what does that have to do with Victor? The Spanish ambassador really is a spy, so what does that have to do with Victor. The fact that movie never even says, “That stuff has nothing to do with the plot” leaves people trying to put a puzzle together that’s missing several pieces but that has extra pieces from another box.

    If you’re going to construct a narrative, you have to be coherent. You can certainly have mystery, you can even lack clarity so the viewer thinks WTF? but in the end, it all has to come together, there has to be an authority in the text that says, “This world makes sense, here’s what it means.” And this plot never does that. It would take massive amounts of brainstorming to get this plot to ever make sense, and one of the first things you’d have to do is fix all the coincidences–really, the phrase her German lessons teach her is the phrase she just happens to drop on the Spanish ambassador which just happens to be his code to kill himself, really?–and tie all the miscellaneous murders together.

    It’s never good when a movie ends and people say to each other, “What the hell was that about?” In this case, the answer is “The romance,” and it works beautifully, but the story is just annoying and that’s a big, big flaw.

  4. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. The first time I watched it I was a kid, and it’s never occured to me–until you guys pointed it out–that the plot is a mess. I just adored the movie.
    You also rocked my world when Lucy said (on the podcast) the thing about romance writers looking at situations and seeing romance everywhere. My creative process usually begins with “and that’s where they hide the body.” So, uh, duh, maybe that’s why my romances don’t work. You all have blown my mind.

  5. Nah, I think that way, too, and I don’t write mysteries. Every time the river floods and an old trunk floats by, I think, “Body.”

  6. First of all, I’m pretty sure her limo driver was driving my taxi in Florida way back when. Anyway. . .

    This was a fun movie. Normally I would be bothered by giving a romance to a married person but her husband was so awful I would’ve been more upset if she’d gone back with him. And when she snatched up her passport my first thought was “what about the kids???” I was glad to see they answered that quickly.

    Like I said, fun movie. 🙂

  7. I’ll admit I’d be more happy about the walking out on the jerk husband if I didn’t know she had two kids. Kinda wish she hadn’t had any, though I guess something worked out at the end.

    I wasn’t into the plot, whatever it was, but I did enjoy Alan’s eventually getting into the whole thing…and his mom being all, “Hey, your dad was nuts”…and, oh, btw, I wrote the novels. Shades of The Blue Castle…