There are rare instances in films where casting decisions are made that are uncharacteristic to the lead’s background, such as casting comedians in very dramatic roles. Linoleum does that feat very well, giving us a very uncharacteristic character for Jim Gaffigan to play and he does it incredibly well. Atop of the very strong uncharacteristic performance, Colin West, who writes and directs this feature, manages to create a combination of The Truman Show and Interstellar in what is a frustrating yet beautiful finished result that will test the patience of its audience giving mixed results.
The film focuses on Cameron (Jim Gaffigan) who runs a late-night children’s science program in the vein of Bill Nye The Science Guy, entitled Above and Beyond. The show is on its last legs and, as he is biking home, a car mysteriously falls from the sky and the man inside appears to be a younger, more attractive version of Cameron named, Kent (who is also played by Gaffigan). His reality starts to shift as he’s clearly suffering from a midlife crisis. Cameron and his wife, Erin (Rhea Seehorn), are on the brink of a divorce as their lives have gone in different directions. Cameron truly is a dreamer, though, and always wanted to be an astronaut instead of an astronomer and continuously applies to NASA’s astronaut program. On a fateful night, after he learns his show is going to be cancelled and he is being replaced by Kent, he arrives home to find his house is taped off and is told that an aircraft crashed in their backyard that is assumed to be Russian (or American). His aspirations to become an astronaut now go to the stratosphere as he begins to reconstruct the aircraft and plans on taking flight.
While Linoleum explores the ideology of following one’s dreams and a midlife crisis simultaneously, it captures a heartwarming essence and perseverance that certainly strikes home. There are so many elements of Linoleum that borrow from time travel and astronaut films, and then the surreal movies that mesh fantasy and the real world while holstering a career-defining performance from Jim Gaffigan. The only issue that stands in the way of the film itself is that it presents too many themes for any of it to fully blossom. The ideas that are there normally reach half to three quarter fulfillment but need something to fully come full circle to bring together a less frustrating final product. The third act is where things truly start to fire off with a less focused closure but definitely more themes and passion driven through it. There is a lot to be dissected and analyzed, but not all of it connects and lands with the audience when the credits roll.
Atop Gaffigan’s double performance, it is hard to dismiss Rhea Seehorn; Katelyn Nacon playing Cameron’s daughter, Nora; and Marc, played by Gabriel Rush, who is Kent’s son. Everyone brings their A-game to Linoleum and makes the film that much stronger and further impactful. Rhea Seehorn, who is ever so frustrated in her professional and personal life, is trying to find out what to do after settling on the idea that she is going to divorce her husband. Katelyn Nacon and Gabriel Rush have a budding friendship that screams sexual tension even though the characters make it explicitly clear they have no interest in one another past friendship, which is another moment of the film that screams frustration for the audience.
Linoleum has so much going for it right out of the gate, but it muddles its overall message and storytelling with too many plots firing on all cylinders at once. If the film just focused on Cameron’s aspirations and his blend between reality and surreal elements, it would’ve felt more complete and less sporadic. However, due to some of the themes in the movie, this may have been intentional to have the movie also feeling like this break of the human mind. Linoleum is frustrating yet rewarding; it begs its audience to dissect the themes, decisions, and choices of the characters and the writer.
Screening during the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.
In theaters February 24th, 2023.
SXSW Screening Information:
*Saturday, March 12th, Screening @ 7:15pm CT, Alamo Lamar D
*Sunday, March 13th, On-line Screening @ 9:00 amtime CT
*Sunday, March 13th, Screening @ 12:45 pm CT, Violet Crown Cinema 2
* Sunday, March 13th, Screening @ 1:15 pm CT, Violet Crown Cinema 4
*Thursday, March 17th, Screening @ 6:30 pm CT, Zach Theatre
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.