Written and Directed by Colin West.
Starring Jim Gaffigan, Rhea Seehorn, Katelyn Nacon, Gabriel Rush, Amy Hargreaves, West Duchovny, Michael Ian Black, Tony Shalhoub, Elisabeth Henry-Macari, Roger Hendricks, Simon Elliot, Frances Flynn, Jay Walker, Levi Chapin, Mike Gaffigan, Patrick Gaffigan, Desmond Joseph Conrad-Fern, Willoughby Pyle, and Twinkle Burke.
When the host of a failing children’s science show tries to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut by building a rocket ship in his garage, a series of bizarre events occur that cause him to question his own reality.
Whether or not one comes away with a positive or negative reception of writer/director Colin West’s Linoleum depends on how the grand reveal works for them. It’s not just about deciding whether it’s a good or bad twist, but how the revelation re-contextualizes everything about the narrative, from the characters we are studying and their dynamics. It’s a wild swing that pays off and will likely encourage viewers to go for repeat viewings to pick up on more of the bigger picture.
The film would also be easily digested once again, considering Jim Gaffigan turns in wonderful work in dual roles as the story balances family-friendly and whimsical coincidences, pointing to a more significant connection and some unexpected darker drama. In the first of those roles, Jim Gaffigan is down on his luck Cameron Edwin, struggling to keep his public access kids science TV show afloat that he once hosted with his soon-to-be separated wife Erin (Rhea Seehorn).
Supposedly, an upgrade to a more accessible daytime slot for children (taped episodes currently air at midnight) is in the cards. However, that changes when a possible doppelgänger appears. Also played by Jim Gaffigan, Kent Armstrong is everything Cameron dreamed of being; an astronaut rather than an astrologist, financially successful and driving around in an exotic car rather than riding a bike, more energetic while maintaining a younger appearance, and more idealized by the world around him.
There are differences between the two suggesting that this is not a literal doppelgänger, such as no wife and daughter for Kent. Instead, Kent has a teenage son named Marc (Gabriel Rush), who shares the same Halloween birthday as Cameron’s teenage daughter Nora (Katelyn Nacon). Transferred into a new school, Nora and Marc began hitting it off, becoming such a strong focus of the script that it somewhat feels unnecessary, even if their performances are relatively fine.
One feels as if the movie has lost its plot, which is about this father who has had his midlife crisis exasperated by the appearance of the man he wishes he was, which has impulsively made him choose to build a rocket out of parts that recently crash landed into his house (there are some strange, fantastical occurrences going on here that fit into the greater scope of the narrative), much to the chagrin of the wife looking to speed up the divorce.
Also at play is a fascinating parallel that Kent, who likes to put on a progressive front, is a cold and cruel father to Marc, suggesting that fame and success have brought out a rougher and more demanding parental figure in him if he truly is meant to be a doppelgänger. Cameron may be losing his wife, but he has the respect of his daughter and young boy.
With his marriage falling apart and Nora falling in love, Cameron visits his father in an assisted living facility to bond over putting together the rocket. Those are all the pieces for Linoleum building something else entirely, albeit flawed and seemingly lacking direction along the way, that culminates into a moving climactic montage on family, identity, and the past, present, and future.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com