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By Megan Bianco
Thirteen years ago, Zach Braff’s Garden State made the TV star a name in film, helped rejuvenate Natalie Portman’s career and penned a subgenre an introspective angst of 20-somethings in indie cinema. It also gave us the now dreaded “manic pixie dream girl” trope. Amazingly, despite how dated the dramedy has become over time, it’s still somehow generating rip-offs. The most recent is stand-up comedian-turned-filmmaker Demetri Martin’s Dean.
Dean (Martin) is in the middle of a personal crisis. He has “artist’s block” with his new book of drawings, he can’t escape his ex-fiancée Michelle (Christine Woods), his best friend Kevin (Barry Rothbart) has found someone else to hang out with and Dean’s mom recently died. While avoiding his father, Robert (Kevin Kline), who wishes to talk about selling the family house, Dean decides to run off to LA for a weekend. There, he falls for lovely Nicky (Gillian Jacobs).
Dean is around 50 percent quality and 50 percent out-of-touch clichés. Martin was 42 when the film was shot, but it’s hard to decipher if his title character is supposed to be a decade younger or so, based on the events and his characteristics. His real age does show with pop-culture gags that would’ve been more appropriate around 2009, and there are predictable story arcs. But there is a nice love subplot between Kline and Mary Steenburgen, Martin and Jacobs play off each other nicely, and there’s a sweet soundtrack from Orr Rebhun. Dean would be worthy of a cable or video-on-demand viewing, more so than theatrical.