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, and Roger Hendricks Simon.
When the host of a failing children’s science show tries to fulfil 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.
Every-so-often a film will come along and do something inexplicably magical to the viewer. You’ll know the feeling. It’s that warm glow which lingers for an hour-or-so having just been moved by a series of projected images. Colin West’s Linoleum is one such experience. An ambitious mystery-of-the-week movie about love and legacy that will win your heart, before breaking it in a thoroughly rewarding way.
Jim Gaffigan’s tin-pot Fred Rogers is the host of a How 2-style science show that broadcasts on local cable from his garage. His wife, played by Better Call Saul MVP Rhea Seehorn has long since abandoned duties as both his co-star, and seemingly his spouse, with divorce papers pending and separate beds the order of the day. While he clings to the hope that his midnight-slot will be moved to prime-time, she is applying for ambitious jobs. And then things begin falling from the sky.
What follows is best experienced knowing as little as possible, simply so that you can go hand-in-hand on the same poignant journey of discovery as Gaffigan’s character. In terms of touch-points; think The Wonder Years meets one of those wacky episodes of The X-Files. There are doppelgangers, the strange appearance of a mysterious woman, the new neighbours who harbor dark secrets, and a Russian satellite. To reveal much else beyond these intriguing titbits would surely diminish the power found in Linoleum‘s path-less-travelled.
Let’s instead focus on the performances, because you can have all the best sleight-of-hand tricks and show-reel moments you want, a story such as this one needs to be grounded before it can achieve lift-off, especially considering the emotional leaps of the faith in the final reel.
Gaffigan’s character is a likeable presence, kinda like a sitcom dad, he plays Cameron with a slumped shoulders acceptance that this is his lot in life. When he’s told that his show will be moving to PBS, but he will only be retained as a producer, life gets in the way of him being able to protest, and so he just resigns himself to the fact. The veteran comedian imbues him with an endearing warmth, playing him relatively straight as more outlandish things start happening around him. Seehorn’s trapped wife feels like the more rounded character. She is trying to face her regrets head-on, changing her situation rather than being a passenger to his, and in doing so she ultimately carries the emotional weight of Linoleum.
Among many things this is a film about generational echoes and how we indelibly imprint on our loved ones, both in positive and negatives ways, and so The Walking Dead‘s Katelyn Nacon also makes a strong impression as the couple’s forward-thinking daughter. Attitude balanced with plenty of empathy, which is something of a watch-word for the entire film, her chemistry with Gabriel Rush’s new kid in town is a sweet narrative that runs parallel with what we believe to be the main story, and evolves into something much more affecting.
The entire film is also a great calling-card for writer and debutant director Colin West, who builds this Blast from the Past style world of artifice in a non-specific time, which gives it a dreamlike, The Truman Show quality that marries perfectly with the Linoleum‘s intentions.
If you want to take a chance on something different, then this is a gem of a Donnie Darko style slice of science-fiction, which asks you to succumb to its strange ways and strap yourselves in for a uniquely triumphant human story. For those who oblige, Linoleum will be one of your best discoveries of the year.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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