POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA (2021)
Satire has been often used to make a point about politics, religion and sexual preference. Tackling any of these subjects can be risky. To put all three in one movie plus set the plot in Russia and the U.S., takes chutzpah.
Potato Dreams of America (2021), based on the Writer/Director Wes Hurley's experiences, stars familiar faces, Dan Lauria, Lady Rizo and briefly Lauren Tewes (Yes, that Lauren Tewes) along with lesser-known, equally fine actors (e.g., (Jonathan Bennett, Sophia Mitri Schloss, Hersh Powers and Lea DeLaria).
The story opens as a child, "Russian Potato," grows up in post-Perestroika Russia. His good Orthodox grandmother--the family matriarch--tries to keep the family together after Russian Potato's mother leaves his alcoholic father. In his own television-fed world, the young Potato discovers his sexuality during puberty but keeps it a secret knowing his grandmother, in particular, would disapprove.
Eventually, he and his mother move to the United States after she agrees to be a mail-order bride to American man, John (Dan Luria). Older, "American Potato," as he's now called, enjoys the fruits of his step-father's middle-class success. The teenager tries to fit into the school culture while continuing to suppress his urges.
Potato Dreams of America first touches on the taboo subject, LGBTQ, in Russia; then its lack of acceptance here. Mixing religious propaganda and homosexuality in this country is far from unusual (Saved! a 2004 comedy, or more recently the drama, Boy Erased, 2018 and the musical, The Prom, 2020). Sacrilegious? Possibly, but the director makes his point without pushing too hard. Lighter moments off-set some of the darker.
Not all the satirical references and weightier implications work in this film. However, I recommend watching a different take on the controversial topic for its brazenness, even in today's "standards." Potato Dreams of America may not change how closed-minded Russian or Americans think, but wouldn't it be inspiring to think so?
Unrated. Alcoholism, masturbation, sex and innuendo.
See my reviews of just released/shown Festival movies, with more to come, on this website.
MASKS ARE REQUIRED AT ALL INDOOR SCREENINGS FOR THE FESTIVAL.
Earlier reviews (before May 20, 2021) are available on https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/wendy-shreve/movies
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