My Friend Dahmer - 2017
Director(s): Marc Meyers
Writer(s): Marc Meyers (screenplay) and Derf Backderf (graphic novel)
Cinematography by: Daniel Katz
Editor(s): Jamie Kirkpatrick
Cast: Ross Lynch, Vincent Kartheiser, Alex Wolff, Dallas Roberts and Anne Heche
Synopsis: We follow a young Jeffrey Dahmer and how he struggled to fit in high school.
This movie is based on John “Derf” Backderf’s graphic novel of the same name. The novel details Derf’s high school friendship with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and gives us a brief insight into Dahmer’s upbringing. If you don’t know who Dahmer is, having a base knowledge of his crimes (17 murders between 1978-91) adds a lot the events depicted on screen. We see how both his family life and his school life played a role in pushing Dahmer across that line that he never would return from in his adult life.
Director Marc Meyers set and maintained a tone throughout this film. Dahmer is presented as a human being, but we always get a sense that there is something darker behind his eyes. Meyers tip-toed beautifully around the dangers of humanizing too much one of the most violent and perverted killers in US history, while still giving the audience a compelling story. This was one of my fears coming into this film: I thought it was going to be an explanation as to why he committed his murders, almost taking away any culpability from Dahmer.
Quick note: the decision to have little to no score helps the audience buy into the world, meaning it didn’t feel like a movie, more like a look into his real life.
The flow of the story was also very engaging; despite it being a slow build I never lost interest in the story. But it still feels there wasn’t a full arch for any of the characters. We are presented with an outsider who has weird hobbies and dark thoughts. By the end he is still this outsider that has the same dark thoughts, only we all know he is going to act on them. I guess making a movie that is quasi prequel to one of the most violent killers in US history deflates the actions and events taking place a little since you know darker and crazier things are to come.
That said, the acting in this movie is phenomenal. Ross Lynch plays Jeffrey Dahmer. His last big role was in the Disney channel TV series Austin & Ally, so I was hesitant to say the least. It took little to no running time for me to realize my hesitations were all for naught. Lynch carried this film on his back as he awkwardly walked, talked and stared through every second, creating a fully-realized character. He also was surprisingly funny, something I didn’t expect from this movie. Along with Lynch, Anne Heche and Dallas Roberts as his parents were great compliments. Heche was perfectly crazy and Roberts was perfectly frustrated, both having key scenes with Lynch and his development. If I were to have any qualms with the acting it would come from Alex Wolff as Derf. He basically just laughs throughout the entire film and when it came to the tense dramatic moments I just didn’t buy his performance.
My Friend Dahmer is a compelling character study in the hands of a very capable writer/director and a talented protagonist. There are roles in many young actor’s careers that could potentially catapult them in to stardom among their peers and movie fans. This is the one for Ross Lynch and I hope he gets more roles in the future where he can once again flex his acting muscles. Lynch’s performance is why I love movies.
My Friend Dahmer is currently playing in theaters. It’s a killer friendship story.
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