Starring: Jim Gaffigan, Rhea Seehorn, Katelyn Nacon, Gabriel Rush, Amy Hargreaves, Michael Ian Black, Tony Shalhoub, Roger Hendricks Simon, Elisabeth Henry
Runtime: 101 mins. Reviewed in Apr 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
When the host of a failing children’s science show tries to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut by building a rocket ship in his garage, a series of bizarre events occur that cause him to question his own reality.
A small film with what one might call an unprepossessing title. Which may leave audiences wondering whether they should see this film or not. If they decide to watch it, they will find it something of a brainteaser.
We are in the American midwest, Cameron (American stand-up comedian, author, recording artist and actor, Gaffigan) 50ish, is riding his bike when, suddenly, a bright red sports car from the clear blue sky, crashes into the road behind him. We should keep that in mind throughout the film even as the narrative becomes, at times, small-town domestic-oriented.
Cameron has had dreams of being an astronaut, loves science and space technology, and, with his now estranged wife (she’s planning a divorce), had worked on a local, small-budget television science education program for a children. Cameron and his wife have a teenage daughter and a small son who never speaks.
Then some space junk falls from the sky in Cameron’s backyard. He decides to work on it, try to get its central apparatus working – and visiting the hospital where his father, suffering from dementia, still remembers technical details and Cameron installs him at home. The doctor at the home, Tony Shalhoub, has a lot of comments about dementia, it being all in the mind, the brain solidifying with an equivalent of plaque and not being able to break free. However, Cameron is not deterred, and makes friends with the young student, Marc (Rush), who has a brutal father, scientist and TV broadcaster also, and also played by Gaffigan. Marc is bullied at school and teams up with Cameron’s daughter – so there’s a whole lot of scenes of teenager and high school life, prissy students, Halloween parties . . .
In the meantime, Cameron’s wife, Erin (Seehorn) has been offered a new job. Erin still has great affection for Cameron, but clashes with her daughter . . .
For those who have been puzzling about aspects of the plot, how similar Marc’s father is to Cameron, a mysterious elderly woman seen standing vigil outside the house, they will be wondering about what is really happening, whether it’s real, or, as the doctor has suggested, so much happening in the mind. Perhaps one way of pondering the screenplay is to remember the 1980s film and its evocative title, Back to the Future.
It does all come together at the end, quite strikingly in the last 15 minutes or so, though still something of a tangle for those who are puzzling. So, a small film but one which keeps making demands on us as we watch – and unthreading the strands of the plot after we have seen it. As regards the title, Gaffigan’s somewhat enigmatic answer, when asked that question: “The linoleum is the floor that was present, and it’s kind of this dull flooring that you see in many different environments: in the basement, in the kitchen, in the doctor’s office”. In other words, the linoleum is the common thread.
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