- Movie Rating -

American Dreamer (1984)

| October 26, 1984

Since American Dreamer and Romancing the Stone exist in such close proximity to each other, I can do away with the possibility that the former is a rip-off of the latter.  Maybe if they were a year apart, I might be inclined to think so.  Both films begin with a bored woman who writes pulpy romantic adventures but finds none of it in her own life.  Then reality comes crashing in the door and they are whisked away to the kinds of hair-raising adventures that previously only existed for them on the page.

The real difference is that it worked much better in Romancing the Stone in which we were caught up in Joan Wilder’s journey to rescue her sister who was kidnapped by a group of smugglers.  In American Dreamer, we aren’t as involved because Cathy Palmer is under the misapprehension that she is someone else.  That pulls the rug out from under the story.

Williams plays Cathy Palmer, a bored suburban housewife who dreams of being a celebrated author.  Then she wins a contest for submitting the best plotline for the next novel featuring fictional Bond-style heroine Rebecca Ryan who runs around the world and had death-defying adventures, international intrigue and a parading galaxy of beautiful men.

The top prize is an all-expenses paid trip to Paris for two in which she and a guest will attend an award ceremony and meet the author of the Rebecca Ryan books.  Her husband Kevin (James Staley) is indifferent to her writing or to the contest, telling her “The point is, you’re doing what you want to do.”

The adventure begins.  Cathy goes to Paris where her purse is snatched and in pursuing the thief is hit by a car and wakes up in the hospital with amnesia and thinking that she really is Rebecca Ryan and that she is mixed up in some kind of political intrigue.  She assumes not only Rebecca’s name but also her personality, her lavish wardrobe and her lodgings at the Hotel de Crillon.  At the hotel, she is greeted by Alan McMann (Tom Conti) who thinks that she is a clerical assistant, but she assumes that he is her sidekick Dimitri.  She doesn’t know that he is the author of the Rebecca Ryan books.

The set-up here takes a leap of faith from the viewer who has to ask why Alan is going along with Cathy’s mistaken identity.  What is his stake in all of this and why is he being so patient with her.

The answer never really lands.  The point of the film is for Williams and Conti to get into one near-death scrape after another, to get involved in high-speed chases and shoot-outs that are required in Rebecca’s novels.  The problem is that we know it’s all a ruse and that the whole relationship between the two is so that they can get together at the end.

If this was a rip-off of Romancing the Stone, it wasn’t a very good one.  The great thing about that film was that we followed Kathleen Turner into the jungles of South America with a sense of logic to her plight.  Here we wait for the clouds to life, for JoBeth Williams to realize that she’s not Rebecca Ryan.  It’s a frustrating journey.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy