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Late for Dinner
1991 - PG - 90 Mins.
Director: W. D. Richter
Producer: W. D. Richter
Written By: Mark Andrus
Starring: Peter Berg, Marcia Gay Harden, Brian Wimmer, Peter Gallager
Review by: Harrison Cheung
W.D. Richter, the man behind such cult classics as John Carpenter’s ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, ‘Buckaroo Bonzai’, and ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and ‘Slither’ directed a wonderful little independent film in 1991 called ‘Late for Dinner’. With a stellar cast that included: Peter Berg, Brian Wimmer, Marcia Gay Harden and Peter Gallager, ‘Late for Dinner’ was destined to be a cult classic as it is impossible to classify.

Written by Mark Andrus – who went on to write ‘Life as a House’ and score an Oscar nomination for ‘As Good As It Gets’ – ‘Late for Dinner’ is a sweet romantic comedy/drama/sci-fi about two friends, actually brothers-in-law, who end up cryogenically frozen for 29 years by accident in Pomona, California while fleeing from the law. When they awaken, they head back to their home in Sante Fe, New Mexico only to find their loved ones three decades older and seemingly forever changed.

What is, at first, a simple story about love lost and found, gets complicated with thinly veiled parables about everlasting love, the intoxication of nostalgia, and, of course, a layer of comedy as the two friends – frozen specimens from the 1960s – struggle to deal with modern day life. From 1961 to 1991, Richter aptly demonstrates how much technology has affected every aspect of life – from automatic doors, automatic faucets to hand-dryers, these conveniences seem alien to the pair from yesteryear. There’s a wonderful scene when the two friends, stunned by the wall of sound emanating from the fast and furious streets of Pomona, escape to the calm serenity of the desert on their drive home to New Mexico.

And like many of Richter’s films, the humor is quirky, at times black, and always off-the-wall. (Their cryogenics doctor is aptly named Dr. Chilblains!) Janeane Garofalo, in what might have been her first movie role, has a funny scene as the counter girl at a burger joint, trying to take their lunch order.

Brian Wimmer stars as Willie, a Jimmy Stewart-like aw-shucks kind of fellow who’s anxious to get back to his wife Joy (Harden). But Peter Berg steals the show as Frank, Joy’s slightly impaired kid brother who has a kidney disorder and is delighted to find out that in the 1990s, a cure for his terminal illness is in reach. While Wimmer's career seems to have floundered, Berg has gone on to become a successful actor/director (The Rundown).

Powered by the most nostalgic soundtrack this side of ‘American Graffiti’, ‘Late for Dinner’ is that rarity of independent films – a movie that doesn’t have a mean bone in its body or a single drop of cynicism. When it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater when Willie, flash-frozen in his 20s, still professes his undying love for his now 50-something year old wife. Marcia Gay Harden’s (‘Mystic River’) face is wonderfully fluid as she is confronted with a young man fresh from her dreams whom she lost 29 years ago. Her emotional response is one of many well-written delicate scenes of whimsy and romance that makes ‘Late for Dinner’ a deserving rental.

Coincidentally, a year after ‘Late for Dinner’ was released, Mel Gibson starred in ‘Forever Young’, a vastly inferior, maudlin movie with similar themes but none of the subtlety or humor. But if you liked ‘Forever Young’, you must see ‘Late for Dinner’.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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