As the trailer for the film suggests, Dinner in America provides an unflinching look at the decaying suburbs of Midwestern America. Written, directed, and edited by Adam Carter Rehmeier, the film tells an unconventional love story between Simon (Kyle Gallner), a punk rock singer on the run from the police, and Patty (Emily Skeggs), an off-beat young woman who is obsessed with his band. It premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2020 and later opened in select theaters on May 27, 2022. Throughout its festival and limited theatrical run, the film has so far garnered rave reviews: The Guardian praised the chemistry between the two leads, while the New York Times applauded the film as an “ode to the punk-rock scene of the 1990s Midwest.”
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Unanimously, it’s Dinner in America’s original song, Watermelon Song, that has left the largest impression on its audiences, with many covers already uploaded onto YouTube, ultimately leaving fans wondering about its availability to stream. In our interview ahead of the film’s theatrical release, Skeggs offered some good news: “It’ll be available soon, so hang tight!” The song, in fact, was co-written by Skeggs herself and Rehmeier. “Part of the deal with this movie was that Adam and I were going to write a song together,” the actress says. “It was one of the first things we did when we [arrived on-location], which really set the tone for and really guided us towards where we knew Patty and Simon ultimately needed to meet.”
“Watermelon Song” Was Written in a Day
It’s not uncommon for movie soundtracks to be composed by famous musical artists. Lady Gaga, for instance, co-wrote all the original songs for Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born soundtrack. For Skeggs, co-writing “Watermelon Song” for Dinner in America was an entirely new experience. Though she’s no stranger to musicals — she was nominated for a Tony in 2015 for her performance in the musical Fun Home — she reveals to us that she “never really thought of myself as anything other than an actor, like someone who sings other people’s songs.”
Sitting down with Rehmeier to write “Watermelon Song” ultimately proved to be an experience that “opened up a lot” for Skeggs. “I basically wrote a bunch of stream-of-consciousness-Patty poetry and brought it to Adam, and we sat there and read through it and just kind of jammed — and Kyle was there, too,” she says. “[Adam and I] wrote the song in a day. It was really liberating in the sense that I was like, ‘Oh, I can write music. I can write songs.'”
Skeggs says, like her character, she had always formed words and phrases in her head that she never considered to be lyrics. “It’s kind of opened up a lot for me. I feel like — to be really lame — I feel like we contain multitudes, you know? [Dinner in America] opened that up for me. I’m learning the bass now. I’m exploring other ways I can be musical, and that’s really fun.”
Dinner in America is now playing in select theaters and will be available on digital and VOD on June 7, 2022.