Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Linoleum Review

Jim Gaffigan attempting to explore a space in which he sees himself as a Phillip Seymour Hoffman-type vessel is a bitter pill to swallow. The tepid funnyman has turned his hand to the dramatics of the big screen and chows down on generally middling pieces of Hollywood fodder. Hence why he appears in Linoleum, one of a seemingly endless sea of releases concerning outcast leading men with a desire to head up to the stars and never come down. Ever since sinister fools took the space race from the hands of everyday fascination and turned it into a dull Twitter plaything, the charm of shooting yourself into the stratosphere has lost its charm. Gaffigan is no Space Cowboy. He is no Space Oddity either, another dire “will he, won’t he,” of space travel from this year.  

Enlisting Rhea Seehorn as the clearheaded realist trying to pull down the Bill Nye impression Cameron Edwin presents, the back and forth for Linoleum becomes agonisingly clear. Pursuing the dreams of childhood are no good because, upon reflection, those dreams are usually mad. From wanting to be a stand-up comedian to wanting to build a fort out of bin bags, the dreams of children should be crushed under the boot of the real world. No wonder escapism now extends beyond the screen and beyond our planet. Anyone not reaching for the stars, in surrender or in hope of leaping through the air, is at a loss. Linoleum fails to deal with its mental health ambiguities all too well, instead convincing viewers they can indeed shoot themselves off into the unknown.  

That they can, should they have a roll of duct tape and access to some pliers to get through the fences of a SpaceX launch site. Gaffigan and Seehorn are affable at best and present this unhinged suburbia for what it is, a hopeful encounter with the dreams of the youth long past by. We all have our ambitions and they are forgotten about when the real world comes tumbling in. A midlife crisis or a real chance at bringing about the next step in a life led in the shadow of youthful dreams? Probably both. The secret of Linoleum is out already, and it finds itself at a crossroads between Donnie Darko’s madness and White Noise’s mid-life crisis fears. Death knocks on the door of those over forty, and as science teachers and children’s entertainers soon realise, it is not what they wanted. 

Even then, those fears and doubts of the generation above, soon to be the problems of the 20-somethings shuffling a deck of cliché to take down a feature with earnest intent, are inevitable. Shopping for linoleum flooring is more entertaining than this. At least then the choice to leave and have a coffee is yours. It is here too, although Linoleum can be paused by other people watching along with you. Make sure to make them a strong brew, coax them away from the television, and get this Gaffigan bonfire switched right off. Launch yourself into space or die trying. Colin West writes and directs a soppy little number that sees his lead character connect and confirm their fears and desires. That is all they can do, confirm it, but can they live it? Linoleum is not concerned about that.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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