Customer Reviews: American Dreamer
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on June 28, 2000
An exuberant wife and mother of two, with a flair for the written word finds adventure in "American Dreamer," a comedy from director Rick Rosenthal. Cathy Palmer (JoBeth Williams) enters a writing contest (two-thousand words written in the style of the famous "Rebecca Ryan" adventure-thriller series) and wins a week-long trip for two to Paris, France, to attend a luncheon to be given in her honor. When her patronizing husband, Kevin (James Staley) refuses to go (too much work at the office), and forbids her to go, as well, she asserts herself, finds a sitter for her two boys and goes anyway. While taking in some of the sights of Paris on her way to the luncheon, she is hit by a car and bashes her head on the pavement. When she awakens in the hospital, she thinks she is Rebecca Ryan, and her real adventures begin in earnest. First, a new wardrobe, charged to the hotel in which "Rebecca" resides. Actually, it's the home of Alan McMann (Tom Conti), son of Margaret McMann (Coral Browne), the author of the "Ryan" series. When Cathy shows up at Alan's as Rebecca, he takes it as a joke being played on him by one of his friends, and goes along with it. And very quickly, he wishes he hadn't; before he knows it, they're up to their necks in intrigue, involving political machinations and heads of state from a number of different countries. Not to worry, though, "Rebecca Ryan" is on the case. It's all a flight of fancy, played with gusto by the delightful JoBeth Williams. Her Cathy is the dutiful wife and mother, not necessarily demure, but cautious; when Rebecca takes over, however, she lets go without restraint. Rebecca comes on with both barrels, spunky and full of moxie, and Williams sells it completely, playing perfectly off of Conti's initially bemused, then confused, and ultimately alarmed Alan. Their timing is right on the money, and Rosenthal never lets it slow down; for this kind of story to work, it has to move fast, and it has to stay fun, and on both fronts Rosenthal succeeds. The story itself may lack some plausibility, but it doesn't make any difference; just suspend any disbelief for awhile, and go with it, because this movie is just what it's supposed to be: Entertaining and funny. And, it doesn't hurt that Williams sprinkles it all with charm. There's some memorable scenes here, including one in which Rebecca, at a party for some dignitaries, whispers what turns out to be a secret code to Don Carlos (Jean Rougerie), an ambassador from Spain, the consequences of which are hilarious. The supporting cast includes Giancarlo Giannini (Victor), Pierre Santini (Inspector Klaus), Leon Zitrone (Ivan), Christopher Daniel Barnes (Kevin, Jr.) and Huckleberry Fox (Karl). "American Dreamer" is light, breezy fare; it's well made and delivered with plenty of fun, thanks mostly to Williams, with an able and noteworthy assist from both Conti and Rosenthal. This may not be a classic, but for an evenings entertainment, this will aptly fill the bill. Moreover, it's one you're going to want to watch more than once, because it's fun, and it's going to leave you with a smile on your face. And, when you think about it, that's not a bad bargain in today's world.
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HALL OF FAMEon August 15, 2005
I'm continually amazed and confounded why the critics butchered this film when it was first released. AMERICAN DREAMER stars JoBeth Williams in one of her greatest roles, with fine support from Tom Conti and Coral Browne.

As a faithful wife to her colourless husband (James Staley) and attentive mother to two boys (Huckleberry Fox, C.B. Barnes), Cathy Palmer finds more romance and adventure in her beloved "Rebecca Ryan" novels. Cathy enters a contest where she has to submit a story written in the style of "Rebecca Ryan", and wins the trip to romantic Paris. Her husband forbids her to go, but realising this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Cathy packs her bags and goes alone. While siteseeing, Cathy is mugged and hit by a car, and waking up the hospital becomes convinced that she is indeed Rebecca Ryan, in the middle of one of her famous cases of international espionage.

JoBeth Williams is so wonderful as Cathy/Rebecca and turns in one of her greatest performances. Not to mention her lush wardrobe of designer clothes! Tom Conti plays the bewildered author of the "Rebecca Ryan" novels, caught up in Cathy's fantasy. With Coral Browne and Giancarlo Giannini. If you have yet to see AMERICAN DREAMER, I highly recommend it. This is a classic in my book.
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on November 3, 2004
For all of you diehard American Dreamer fans who have waited patiently (and not so patiently)for the movie to be released on DVD...You wish has been granted. I have been writing fox etc. for years (along with many others) to have this movie put on DVD. According to a CBS exective (posing from another site)the movie is being released on DVD sometime in 2005 through paramount studios ( a sister company), not a very precise date but at least confirmation that it will be brought out on DVD. Apparently all the demands have made a difference !

Hope this helps people :o)
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on October 8, 1999
Ignore the professional reviews above; they're not accurate. This is a gentle, witty, charming confection of a movie, well worth watching over and over again. Despite what Gorman and Maltin say, this is not a rip-off of Romancing the Stone, not even close. The relationship at the core of Romancing the Stone is adversarial, founded on deceit and one-upsmanship (just like in every other Michael Douglas movie ;>). In American Dreamer, the relationship between Williams and Conti may start in delusion on her part and exasperation on his, but it evolves into an affectionate collaboration.
JoBeth Williams plays a woman trapped in a marriage to a condescending man who wants a housekeeper, not an equal partner. (A dynamic familiar to many women in the early eighties. :>) She enters a "Rebecca Ryan" writing contest where the first prize is a trip for two to Paris -- and wins. Despite her best efforts to cajole her husband into accompanying her, he persists in belittling her accomplishment. Not only does he refuse to go to Paris with her, he also tries to prevent her from going, too.
Despite his best efforts (and much to his consternation :)), she goes anyway. Through a series of mishaps, she gets amnesia (it is a Hollywood comedy, after all), and wakes up thinking that she actually is Rebecca Ryan, the designer-clad heroine of a series of spy novels, written by Tom Conti's mother (well, his character's mother, but you knew what I meant). She shows up at "Rebecca's" suite at the Hotel Crillion (actually occupied by Conti), and the chase is on...
With plot twists that will actually catch you by surprise, one of the best slapstick comedy scenes in any movie (and yes, guys, this _does_ include the Three Stooges ;>), and a delightfully egalitarian relationship at the core of it, American Dreamer is a excellent choice for frittering away a rainy afternoon. And guys, it's a _great_ date movie.
To the publisher: please, please, please, please, please release this on DVD...
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on March 2, 2000
Who hasn't fantasized about adventure and intrigue in exotic locations? This movie is a delight--funny, charming, and romantic. I've seen it over and over, and can't get enough. Tom Conti is perfectly cast as the bemused, exasperated, unwilling, and finally entranced hero, but the show really belongs to Jobeth Williams. Her portrayal of a vaguely dissatisfied but still devoted wife who accidentally takes on the persona of a madcap adventuress is priceless. I think I'll watch it again right now!
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on June 29, 2000
I will never understand why this movie did not catch on -- all of the big critics claim miscasting -- but I think this is a delightfully original and very, very funny movie. With charm to spare, the spy/adventure/dreamer elements come to together in a creative, if sometime predictable way, and by the breathless finale, you are completely caught up in the situations of all of the major players. JoBeth Williams is so completely committed to both sides of her character, including of course the novel heroine, that she shoots sparks and is deliriously entertaining and funny in her seriousness. Tom Conti displays his winning puppy-dog quality, and the oddball pairing seems, in the end, absolutely perfect. This movie is addictive: give it a chance; you will not regret it!
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on July 24, 2015
Cathy is a typical suburban housewife who loves a series of romantic adventure novels featuring a female spy named Rebecca Ryan. She enters a writing contest to write a scene about Rebecca Ryan and ends up winning the grand prize: a trip for two to Paris to meet the author of the series. She's excited because she's always wanted to see Paris, but her workaholic husband doesn't want to go and doesn't want her to go, either. However, she stands her ground with him, saying that she's earned the prize and she's going to enjoy it. So, she hires someone to look after her husband and their two boys and leaves for Paris. Her trip takes a turn for the weird when she gets hit by a car while sight-seeing and is taken to the hospital with a concussion. In her confused state, she starts thinking that she is Rebecca Ryan, the daring and beautiful super spy, desired by pretty much every man she meets. She stages a bold escape from the hospital and proceeds to go around Paris, acting out things from the Rebecca Ryan books. She ends up meeting Alan McMann, the son of the author of the Rebecca Ryan series, who thinks at first that one of his friends hired her to play the part of Rebecca as a prank. Soon, he realizes that she is completely sincere in believing that she's Rebecca and that she is in need of help, but by then, her spy act has stirred up a hornet's nest of trouble. There are truly sinister things happening in Paris, and the real bad guys are convinced that "Rebecca" is onto them. Meanwhile, Cathy is convinced that Alan is actually Dmitri, Rebecca's spy partner. Poor Alan has to save Cathy from both the bad guys and herself while fantasy and reality mix and Cathy's memories slowly start resurfacing.

I love this movie, and I recommended it to some friends who are fans of the 80's tv series Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Like the heroine of that series, Cathy accidentally gets swept up into a world of intrigue and discovers that she has abilities that she never fully realized that she had. Along the way, she finds adventure and romance.
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on February 28, 2016
I loved this move when it was in theaters in 1984 and still love it. I was so glad to see it was available on DVD.

I happened to see this the first weekend it came out and was shocked to see how bad the credits panned this film. What is wrong with a movie that is just fun to watch? That's what this movie is to me. The crazy adventure this board housewife goes on is so much fun and we get to go along for the ride. JoBeth Williams is fantastic in this movie - as she is in every other role she has portrayed. Not a lot of her roles were comedic though I wish she played against type more because she has a talent for it. Tom Conti is also a gem in this movie.

I watched it on VHS for years and finally purchased the DVD a number of years ago (finally getting around to reviewing past purchases). I watch this a few times of year. It is a great movie to put on when you want to just chill out and laugh on a weekend afternoon.
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on December 17, 1999
This movie has two premises... 1 - you can't keep a good woman down and 2 - everyone has something to hide. The chemistry between a heroic if mentally fuzzy JoBeth Williams and the Teddy Bear Tom Conti is not to be missed.
This movie is delightful and stands up to the test of time. I have worn out one copy of this tape already and plan to work on the second. Bring it out on DVD PLEASE!
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on March 30, 2007
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