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Film / American Dreamer

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Can speak five languages, but can't hold her liquor.

"Dimitri," said Rebecca, "you know I always get my man, even when he's a woman."

A 1984 romantic comedy thriller directed by Rick Rosenthal, starring JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti.

Rebecca Ryan, a Lady James Bond Expy (although she's a private detective instead of a secret agent), is the main character in a popular series of novels by Margaret McMann. The author's son, Alan (Conti), has been living the life of a playboy, until one day a woman (Williams) shows up claiming to be Rebecca, and causing all sorts of trouble.

It turns out she is actually Cathy Palmer, a Housewife stuck in an unhappy marriage. Her best escape has been these novels, and after winning a trip to Paris, she suffers a concussion, and is now living as her favorite character. Of course, she doesn't have any of Rebecca's skills and sees danger when there isn't any, and Alan is helplessly caught in her wake.


But perhaps there is some danger.

This light comedy doesn't have the madcap situations this setup implies, but it does have a good degree of Deconstruction of the kind of character Rebecca is.

Unrelated to the 2018 thriller of the same name starring Jim Gaffigan.

This film provides examples of:

  • American Title: "American Dreamer"
  • Ascended Fanboy: Fangirl in this case. Cathy becomes a co-writer for the books.
  • Asshole Victim: Victor Marchand suffers a lot in this movie (poisoning, multiple broken bones) after meeting Rebecca. However, he's the leader of a drug ring and a murderer, and at least some of his injuries were caused by his backfired attempts to kill Rebecca.
  • Big Bad: Count Reneleau in the books, who Cathy unconsciously imagines as her husband, Kevin. Drug dealer Victor Marchand is the villain in the actual movie.
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  • Bond One-Liner: Cathy finishes off her story with one, but has a few false starts.
  • Butt-Monkey: Alan "Dmitri" McMann for most of the movie. Caught up in Rebecca's whirlwind, and in a perpetual state of "What the hell?"
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several different ones, either subverted or double subverted.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Hanging upside down can apparently be very painful if done for too long.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Subverted. It was just shoes Alan had left there.
    Alan: It's my shoes, see? My shoes. (Rebecca shrugs.) There's nobody in them - not even me!
  • Creator Backlash: In-Universe. The writer of the Rebecca Ryan books thinks they are "cheap pulp".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alan is this, until some people try to shoot him and "Rebecca". Then he starts to ham it up in his frustration.
  • Deconstructive Parody: This movie is a spoof of the sort of stories Rebecca would have appeared in, by having the hero be a housewife who doesn't actually have the knowledge and skills of such a character.
  • Easy Amnesia: How Cathy becomes Rebecca.
  • Escapist Character: In-Universe, this is what Rebecca is to Cathy, and the plot could be summed up as her literally escaping into this character.
  • Follow That Car: and Alan actually says "I can't believe I said that."
  • Girly Skirt Twirl: Done with a full-length fur coat, by Cathy during on her shopping spree.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: This is an Unbuilt Trope example. Cathy as Rebecca has many of the traits of the trope, but her actions are living out the life she always wanted instead of just enriching Alan's life.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Kevin tries to be this, but Cathy only falls for it to a certain point. He fails to keep her from going on the trip, and after Cathy regains her memory, he fails to get her to just go home as though nothing happened.
  • Meaningful Echo: at one point Rebecca overhears a couple arguing very much like Cathy and Kevin did.
    Rebecca: It's not the cathedral, Harold. It's the last 15 years.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Alan carrying a very drunk Rebecca, bridal-style, into his apartment, where his girlfriend Jacqueline is waiting, dressed for the party Alan and Rebecca just attended. It's a very short break-up.
  • Noodle Incident: while writing their escapades into the next Rebecca Ryan novel, Cathy and Alan have this exchange:
    Cathy: So what happened next?
    Alan: You know what happened next!
    Cathy: Yes, but we can't tell them that!
  • Official Fan-Submitted Content: In-Universe Cathy wins a contest to write a Rebecca Ryan story and come to Paris.
  • Only Sane Man: Alan McMann is this when trying to explain Rebecca's antics, though that starts to break down.
  • Pretty in Mink: Rebecca's glamorous wardrobe includes several furs, so Cathy buys some in her shopping trip. The film even starts out with Rebecca wearing a red fox jacket and hat as she catches the bad guy.
  • Separate Scene Storytelling: It turns out the opening scene is this when Cathy can't think of a good one liner.
  • Shopping Montage: An amusing misunderstanding allows Cathy to pay for all the clothes.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Even Cathy going on the trip is too much for her husband, who insists she just stay home. He even brags about his success to his buddies, but it's at that moment that they see Cathy all packed up and heading off to the airport.
  • The Unfair Sex: This is downplayed. Cathy does sleep with Alan, but as Rebecca, and she still thinks he's Dimitri, her sidekick. Plus lovemaking isn't Cathy and Kevin's problem. It's just that he's a condescending, controlling jerk.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Although Dmitri is gay, Cathy thinks this is going on between him and Rebecca.
  • Unwilling Suspension: When Cathy and Alan are kidnapped by drug dealers, they are tied up and left hanging upside down from the ceiling.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: An apparent ending really isn't. After Cathy and Alan realize they love each other, they get kidnapped by the drug dealers Cathy had accidentally antagonized as Rebecca.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Alan tries his best to explain to the police chief that yes, "Rebecca" is insane, but someone is still trying to murder her. It goes badly.
    Alan: No, someone is trying to kill her, but not as Rebecca. The woman is crazy!
    Police chief: She is not the only one!