Dean is a 2016 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Demetri Martin and produced by Honora Productions. The film stars Martin, Gillian Jacobs and Kevin Kline. Martin plays the title character, Dean, who is a published cartoon artist who draws in a simple style with felt pen and Bristol board. The drawings in the film are done by Martin.
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 16, 2016 and was released in the United States on June 2, 2017.
Dean (Demetri Martin) lives in Brooklyn and has recently lost his mother. His father Robert (Kevin Kline) is an engineer who lives in the suburbs and is having difficulty adjusting to a life alone. Dean's ex-fiancée Michelle (Christine Woods) attempts to give back the engagement ring, as Dean has "un-proposed." Dean refuses, suggesting she put it on a charm bracelet.
Dean's best friend Brett (Reid Scott) is getting married. Dean is actually the "second best" man behind Kevin (Barry Rothbart). Brett and Dean were roommates, along with Eric (Rory Scovel) who has flown out from Los Angeles for the wedding. During the wedding ceremony, Dean sees Michelle's wedding date and gets distracted. When asked to produce the wedding ring, he fumbles with it and drops it. Later during the reception, a drunken Kevin finishes up the best man speech. Dean begins his best man speech, but gets rudely interrupted by Kevin, who gets up and starts swinging at Dean.
Waking up in bed with his face in donuts the next morning, Dean gets a call from Robert. Robert says it is time to sell the house. Dean cannot deal with that, so tells his father to wait because he has to fly to Los Angeles to meet with ad agency "creatives" who want to use his drawings. His father has been frustrated by Dean's lack of engagement, and has already brought in realtors Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Patrick (Peter Scolari). Robert assumes that Patrick and Carol are husband and wife, but Carol says they are not. Robert sees that Carol has an online dating profile on her PC behind her realtor work. While he begins critiquing her profile, a relationship begins to form.
Dean meets with the advertising creatives, but is put off by their strange work habits and attitudes. They want to use his work to represent the "before" drawings in an advertisement for deodorant. The main character in the ad is a nerd, but the pitch is to have the deodorant enable the character to draw amazing detailed drawings after using the product. Dean excuses himself and leaves.
Dean calls his friends in Los Angeles including Becca and Eric. He goes to a party and meets Nicky (Gillian Jacobs). He is immediately taken by her, but clumsily tips over a serving tray when he absent-mindedly leans on it. He still pursues her, despite Nicky's friend Jill repeatedly dragging her away, and manages to give her his phone number, written on a small notebook paper in a "twentieth-century way." The next day Dean spends time with Eric and finds out he is a cat person, with cat furniture all over his bedroom.
As Dean is leaving Los Angeles, he gets a text on his iPhone from Nicky inviting him to come play volleyball at the beach. He leaves the plane and an annoying seat mate behind and heads to the beach, where he is seen dragging his suitcase across the sand. He finally finds Nicky, and they go out to have a dinner date. He kisses her at the end of the date. She invites Dean to come to an art gallery with Jill.
Nicky tells Dean that she and Jill will be going up to San Francisco. Dean says that he also had planned to go to the Bay area with Eric. The four end up driving together. Right as they are about to go on a hike, Eric gets a call from his roommate telling him that a bookcase has dropped on his cat. Eric demands to be taken to the San Francisco airport immediately to fly home. Dean goes to a hotel, because Nicky tells him that Jill's parents would not be comfortable with him staying there. He tries to kiss Nicky goodbye, but Jill honks the car horn and interrupts them.
Nicky later comes back to Dean's hotel room and spends the night with him. Dean tells Nicky that he thinks he might be falling in love with her, and tells her about the failed engagement and mother dying. Later in the morning, Nicky is gone. There is a hand-written "twentieth-century style" letter for Dean at the front desk. In it, Nicky explains that she is married, but has been separated. Jill had been telling Nicky to divulge that to Dean, but there was never an opportunity.
Robert and Carol have been going out together in New York. They return from a play, where they both confess they had no idea what was going on. Carol invites Robert up to her apartment for coffee, and Robert is unable to, because he is "still married".
At the end of the film Dean has returned to New York, and finished his next book. He sends a signed copy back to Eric. Robert has moved into a new apartment in the city. Dean tearfully admits that he has not been there, but he and Robert finally reconcile with each other. Later Robert sees Carol walking in his neighborhood, and they walk on together.
- Demetri Martin as Dean Anderson
- Gillian Jacobs as Nicky Hoey
- Kevin Kline as Robert Anderson (Dad)
- Mary Steenburgen as Carol
- Reid Scott as Brett Smith
- Rory Scovel as Eric
- Briga Heelan as Becca
- Christine Woods as Michelle
- Barry Rothbart as Kevin
- Peter Scolari as Patrick
- Beck Bennett as Trevor (CEO of [email protected])
- H. Jon Benjamin as phone salesman (cameo)
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 62% based on 50 reviews, with an average rating of 6.13/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Dean's light touch with heavy themes -- and a talented cast led by writer-director-star Demetri Martin -- help compensate for the familiar story's narrative drift." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film holds a score of 58 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Based in part on Martin's own experience losing his father at age 20 to kidney cancer that may have been caused by a nearby Superfund site, Dean received the prize for Best Narrative Feature from the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016, and the Tribeca jury praised the film for "breathing new life into a well-worn genre." John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter noted that the film, a story of grief, generally feels less meta than Martin's comedy work, and he opined that Martin effectively pulls the audience "along for the ride." He continues, "If grief dramedies are as much a rite of passage as romantic rebounds, it's exciting to imagine what Martin's next step as a filmmaker will look like." Critiques of the film focused on the movie's similarity to others in the genre, at some points failing to differentiate itself from its more successful influences.
It ran four weeks in theaters, with a limited distribution. Although not a Box office bomb, it did not recoup the original investment in the theatrical run.