Linoleum is a quirky quasi-science-fiction dramedy with comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan and Rhea Seehorn, who viewers may know from Better Call Saul. The film has shades of magical realism as well.
Gaffigan plays Cameron Edwin, a Bill Nye-esque children’s science TV host. There’s a strange accident involving a car and then part of a rocket that falls out of the sky, at the same time that Edwin has been stymied in his efforts to get his show shifted from midnight to the Saturday morning slot—which is obviously more kid-friendly—and his marriage is about to veer into divorce proceedings. He decides to turn the fallen rocket into a spaceship. There was also an astronaut who looks suspiciously like Edwin in the fallen car…
It’s a good indie film that provides a showcase for Gaffigan. I haven’t watched much of his comedy stuff, but he has been in a couple of interesting movies previously. Here he turns on a very good performance along the lines of Philip Seymour Hoffman (who you could easily have seen in this role). The two younger actors, Katelyn Nacon as Edwin’s daughter Nora and Gabriel Rush as the son of the mystery astronaut are also really good as a pair of high-school oddballs and their friendship is very believable at these oddballs against the world.
There are definitely some shades of Donnie Darko in there, which may give you a little too much information about what’s up. Charlie Kaufman’s films also come to mind as comparisons, with some influence from the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man. It goes off in some interesting directions, with the last 20 minutes not being exactly where you expected this film to go. Some might be put off by the eventual twist, but you’ll have to see it to find out if you’re in that camp or not.
Gaffigan’s work is impressive here as a sad-sack who remains optimistic despite everything. He shows his chops as a serious actor, and could certainly have that career if it’s where he wants to go from comedy. Rhea Seehorn is somewhat wasted in the role of Erin but is very committed to what she has to work with.
Linoleum is director Colin West’s first major feature, and while not perfect—the parts with Tony Shalhoub didn’t work for me, but the two core relationships between Nacon and Rush, and Gaffigan and his wife Erin (Seehorn) really did—it’s a great start to his career. The production design shows the results of real effort despite a low budget. I’m shocked it didn’t play Sundance because it feels like something that should have been there, it did eventually premiere at SXSW.