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Review: ‘Dreamland’ an impressive debut for Schwartzman

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

The Coppola family tree continues to branch off with “Dreamland,” which marks the assured directorial debut of Robert Schwartzman.

This quirky comedy tells the story of Monty Fagan, played by Johnny Simmons (“Scott Pilgrim’s” Young Neil) in a role that utilizes the boyish naiveté of his facial features to express his character’s slack acceptance of his station in life.

He’s a pianist who rides around town on his vintage moped and teaches piano lessons to children. He hopes to one day open his own piano bar, but that’s a far-off dream, and he’s stuck living with his girlfriend Lizzie (Frankie Shaw), who openly cheats on him, and her nagging mother (Beverly D’Angelo).

Things begin to change for Monty when he meets Olivia (“Transparent’s” Amy Landecker, who is excellent), a rich older married woman with whom he strikes up an affair. She showers him with money and provides him with a necessary confidence boost as he begins to take control of his life.

There’s a bit of an undercurrent of “The Graduate” in “Dreamland,” which plays out like a grown-up coming of age tale. Simmons, who’s used to playing sidekick or secondary roles, does standout work and proves he can carry a film on his able shoulders.

Director and co-writer Schwartzman — nephew of Francis Ford Coppola and younger brother of actor Jason Schwartzman, who shows up here in a small role as an aloof banker — tells a small story and makes it feel warm and personal. He also did much of the film’s music himself, showing he has talent well beyond his family’s name.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Dreamland’

GRADE: B+

Not rated: language, sexual situations

Running time: 84 minutes