Linoleum (2022) – Film Review
Director: Colin West
Cast: Jim Gaffigan, Rhea Seehorn, Katelyn Nacon
By Roger Crow
You know if you draw a moustache on a lightbulb, stare at it for a few seconds, then turn the light off, chances are all you can see is the moustache? There’s a similar effect with movies. It’s hard to look at any film after Star Wars for example that involved a young hero, a beautiful princess and space battles without being reminded of that original movie. Sadly the same is true of Donnie Darko. Not the film itself, which is an absolute masterpiece, but any film like Linoleum, which deals with similar subject matters, but can’t escape the tropes of that 2001 cult flick.
The protagonist here is not a moody young guy like Jake Gyllenhaal, but Jim Gaffigan. He plays Cameron Edwin, who always dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but his career path led him to television instead. He’s the host of a kid’s science programme, Above & Beyond. When the network announces it will move the failing show to a late-night slot, it’s clear that the glory days are over. The fact Cameron’s marriage to Erin (Rhea Seehorn) is dead only adds to his woes.
“Surreal events unfold”
You can imagine his surprise while posting a letter when something unexpected falls from the sky.
Then a space satellite mysteriously lands in his backyard, triggering a midlife crisis. Cameron decides to build a rocket in his garage in an attempt to make his dreams come true.
Sadly Cameron’s relationship with his wife and his daughter (Katelyn Nacon) becomes more strained as surreal events unfold around him. That includes a doppelgänger who moves into the house next door, and a strange teenager tries to befriend him.
Linoleum is a well made mix of fantasy, science-fiction and comedy, and if you’ve never seen Donnie Darko or Safety Not Guaranteed, you may warm to its charms. But the coincidences for this viewer at least were too great to ignore. The neighbourhood looks the same as Darko; the falling debris (a plane engine in DD, space debris here); the mysterious old woman who may hold a clue to the mystery; the red sports car, which is obviously also integral, and so on.
“Shalhoub is as good as ever”
On the plus side, the ever magnificent Tony Shalhoub is as good as ever, so well worth watching for him alone.
As well crafted as Linoleum is, it’s also just a little too earnest and syrupy for my tastes. Too much soft focus and that need to hammer home a sense of Spielbergian wonder and awe. Nothing wrong with that, because Steven created a template for countless film makers hoping to tap into that sense of eighties awe which made films like ET so memorable.
Writer/director Colin West has a great film in him, and this comes close, but we may have to wait a while to see something from him that really blows our socks off.