My Friend Dahmer (R)

Drama 107 min. November 10, 2017
By April Wolfe
My Friend Dahmer, from a graphic memoir of the same name by the pseudonymous Derf Backderf, is a kind of coming-of-age tale that dissects a troubled kid's descent into murder. Backderf was a high-school pal of the boy who would grow up to become the serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. There's no one single person or event to blame for Dahmer kidnapping and eating 17 young men; his devolution here gets imagined as the cumulative effect of slights and bullying at school and neglect from his mentally ill mother (Anne Heche) and checked-out, emasculated father (Dallas Roberts). The film ultimately is about watching a morose child lose his grip on reality, but director Marc Meyers and Backderf find in Dahmer's painful naivete moments of humor.

Former Disney kid Ross Lynch plays Dahmer as something other than the total tortured loser you may imagine. Yes, he's often within an inch of getting the shit kicked out of him for being weird, but he's socially savvy enough to shield himself from the abuse by letting his more effeminate acquaintances endure it, while he beelines for the door. He may be a sometimes sympathetic character, but he never tilts over into likable. As much as this story is about Dahmer, it's also about Backderf's fears of possible complicity -- could he have known how troubled Dahmer actually was? Did he miss signs that could have been a warning?

Meyers manages the feat of balancing complex tones, never resorting to poking fun at his subject. My Friend Dahmer is both sensitive and fascinating, distinguished by a stellar, mouth-breathing performance of insecurity from Lynch.
Marc Meyers Vincent Kartheiser, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche, Dallas Roberts, Ross Lynch Marc Meyers FilmRise

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