Coming-of-age films don't need to be restricted to teenagers. All throughout life, there are milestones, forked roads and winding paths. That's particularly true for middle age.
That's where Jim Gaffigan's character, Cameron, finds himself in "Linoleum." Something of a Bill Nye wannabe, he's the star of a little-watched late-night science show. He sleepwalks through his career, just as he seems to do with his strained relationships with his wife (Rhea Seehorn) and daughter (Katelyn Nacon), who see him as an aloof, uninspired placeholder.
Cameron's life gets a jolt from beyond when a piece of space wreckage crashes in his backyard. Government agents descend on the home, and inexplicable occurrences start to happen all around him. For instance, a lookalike moves in next door. Cameron starts to embark on an unlikely, long-dormant passion project: To use the wreckage to craft a rocket ship that could help him fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut.
This all sounds goofy, and is to some extent, but Gaffigan's muted performance, which simmers with a restrained, bubbling enthusiasm, manages to sell it as you follow Gaffigan along his character arc. Gaffigan, who so often uses self-deprecating wit while building his comedy empire, inverts his sense of humor into a deep introspection, in the way Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler have managed to do in their more serious roles.
Director Colin West proves to be something of a sci-fi visionary, operating with the less-is-more mindset.
While "Linoleum" is all over the place, and works better in quiet, unrelated moments than it does as a cohesive story, the film is a fascinating dive into the implausible yearning to reach into the great beyond and find some sense of meaning. It's a reminder to keep looking, longing and reaching for the stars, no matter how grounded and stuck in the muck you may be feeling.
Scripps News Tucson rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
This story was originally published by Phil Villarreal of Scripps News Tucson.