American Dreamer, 1984
Turns out, imagined intrigue is just as dangerous as the real thing.
Some films will just always remind you of home, either because you watched them as a child or because of the warm relationships they depict. American Dreamer, starring JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti, takes the audience on a whirlwind chase through Paris, but will always remind me of home.
Cathy Palmer is a stay-at-home mother of two who dreams of a more exciting life. When she wins a short story contest writing in the style of her favorite “Rebecca Ryan” adventure-thrillers, she gets an all-expense-paid trip for two to Paris. Her bland husband refuses to go, so Cathy goes on her own, hinting at the “Rebecca Ryan” pluck she has hidden inside of her. Before she can get to the award luncheon, however, she is mugged and hit by a car. Waking up in the hospital, she believes she is Rebecca Ryan, and the hilarity ensues.
The film is a fast-paced comedy – with one of the best twists I’ve seen. It’s a silly plot, but wrapped in a pretty inspiring story that manages to deliver a “do what you truly love” message without any schmaltz. Rebecca is feisty and daring, but Cathy proves that when she believes in herself, she shares a lot of traits with her heroine.
Though she’s away from her children for most of the film, her relationship with them is so warm and loving – and so comfortable – that you can see how much better their home life will be once they’re reunited at the end. You don’t usually find this much heart in an adventure film, but American Dreamer really delivers.
Finally, it’s clear to see what attracted Cathy to the character of Rebecca Ryan – I would love to read the books! Though the author in the film calls the books “cheap pulp,” they seem to be chock full of mystery, international espionage, fun and danger. Too bad they’re fictional!
Did you know: Cathy Palmer and family live in the same suburban home as Ferris Bueller.