Review: Learning to deal with loss, laughter in ‘Dean’

Comedian Demetri Martin writes and directs this poignant story about grief, grieving and getting away

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Comedian Demetri Martin makes his writer-director debut with “Dean,” a thoughtful examination of grief filtered through the stand-up’s off-center sensibilities.

Martin plays Dean, a Brooklyn artist whose one-panel illustrations highlight life’s eccentricities. His mother has recently died, and he and his father, Robert (Kevin Kline) are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward.

Dean heads to Los Angeles to take some work meetings and hang out with friends with whom he has lost touch. There he meets Nicky (Gillian Jacobs, who between this and the Netflix series “Love” is becoming sort of the patron saint of nerdy dudes), a free spirit with whom he forms an emotional connection.

Back in New York, Robert is selling the home he shared with his wife, and is falling for his real estate agent Carol (Mary Steenburgen). But things are more complicated than they seem, and Martin’s script navigates the choppy waters of emotional bereavement and doesn’t always take the easy road.

At times, Martin’s script feels self-satisfied and pushy, like he’s forcing pieces of his stand-up into the story. But that dissipates and the film’s second half makes clear his intentions and shows he’s not necessarily making the movie you think he’s making at the beginning.

“Dean” has a light but poignant touch, and unfolds in a world where things don’t magically work out because they’re supposed to according to movie logic. It’s about imperfections and dealing with the moment, and how the aftermath of death helps shape the way we handle life.


(313) 222-2284




Rated PG-13: for language and some suggestive material

Running time: 93 minutes