Jeffrey Dahmer struggles with a difficult family life as a young boy. During his teenage years he slowly transforms, edging closer to the serial killer he was to become.
**_Tonally flawless, but narratively weak_**
> _The killing was just a means to an end. That was the least satisfactory part. I didn't enjoy doing that. That's why I tried to create living zombies with uric acid and the drill, but it never worked. No, the killing wasn't the objective. I just wanted to have the person under my complete control, to do with as I wanted. It's not easy to say that, but that's what the motive was._
Taking place over the course of Jeffrey Dahmer's last year in high school, and culminating with the fateful meeting between Dahmer (Ross Lynch) and Steven Hicks (Dave Sorboro), writer/director Marc Meyers's _My Friend Dahmer_ is based on the 2012 graphic novel by Derf Backderf (played in the film by Alex Wolff), who attended the same school as Dahmer, and formed a pseudo-friendship with him. The film is tonally brilliant, coming across like _The Breakfast Club_ (1985) directed by David Fincher, perfectly capturing 80s tackiness. Narratively, however, it's extremely plodding, and could easily have been trimmed by 20 minutes.
It's also difficult to see what Meyers was trying to achieve; other than a couple of brief moments, we're never given any real access to Dahmer's interiority, so he remains an enigma, always at arm's length (which could have been the point). But is Meyers asking us to feel sympathy for Dahmer because he had a difficult adolescence, came from a broken home, couldn't make friends in school; to quote that great line from Michael Mann's _Manhunter_ (1986),
> _my heart bleeds for him, as a child. Someone took a kid and manufactured a monster. At the same time, as an adult, he's irredeemable. He butchers whole families to pursue trivial fantasies. As an adult, someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks._
Or is this simply a character study (if we didn't know it was about Dahmer, it could be any number of examinations of high school awkwardness)?
The lack of clarity regarding the film's theme is compounded by the scenes where it looks as if Dahmer is about to murder someone, only to stop at the last second. This is an especially strange way to generate tension, insofar as we already know his first murder was Hicks. Also, if the film is actually trying to say something of societal worth regarding serial killers, directionless youth, nature vs. nurture etc, trying to draw an audience into the narrative with the prospect of murder probably isn't the way to go about it. The film also fails to really get into the issues of Dahmer's sexuality, and his confusion and frustration about being gay. It's worth a look, and Lynch's performance is quite something, but if you're already familiar with Dahmer's story, you won't find much insight here.
Ibid Filmworks, Aperture Entertainment, Attic Light Films by Marc Meyers, John Backderf.
Stars: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche, Zachary Davis Brown.
Genres: Biography, Drama
Keywords: 1970s ohio biography high school based on a true story based on comic sociopath murder homosexuality coming of age serial killer divorce based on graphic novel social outcast
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