Film Review: NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER (USA/Israel 2016)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

norman.jpgDirector: Joseph Cedar
Writer: Joseph Cedar
Stars: Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Michael Sheen

Review by Gilbert Seah

Not to be confused with the other film NORMAN made in 2010, this new NORMAN comes with a long subtext in the title that essentially tells everyone what the film is about.
Written and directed by Joseph Cedar, NORMAN (film’s original title was OPPENHEIMER STRATEGIES) tells the moderate rise and tragic fall of the said man. The film is well shot and directed as a combination of set pieces are performed almost meticulously by veteran actor Richard Gere. At the age of 67, Gere could be almost be doing old fart movies like GOING IN STYLE. (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin share the average age of 80), Here in NORMAN, Gere is in top form, articulating his character who still has the ability to charm and ‘cheat’ investors of their hard earned savings.

Cedar’s film begins with two dramatic set pieces that show Norman hard at work. In the first, he is unsuccessful while he succeeds in the second. In the first segment, he stalks a high-profile businessman interrupting his private life, while he is jogging in the morning to pitch his deal. In the second, he successfully courts a young politician, Nicha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) after paying for his shoes at a shoe store. (French actor Isaac Bankole is immediately recognizable as the shoe salesman who flatters Eshel.) Three years pass and Eshel becomes Prime Minister of Israel. Eshel’s name is used to no end by Norman in all his present and future schemes.

At the film’s start in one of Eshel’s speech, he says: “I do not look at the way things are and ask: Why? I look at the way things should be and ask, why not?” The same idea can be used to critique NORMAN. The film is fine but the question that should be asked is what the film should have been with the question why not.

For one, nothing is mentioned of Norman’s background. Norman is shown the way he is – no girlfriend, minimal family and a loner at heart and in life. It is hard to identify with a person like Norman and especially as he is a trickster at heart. Norman has few redeeming qualities. There is no suspense in the way he could have got caught which could have added some needed suspense into an otherwise monotonous film.

Gere is good and the film contains an impressive cast of actors that include French Bankole and Charlotte Gainsbourg and others like Hank Azaria (always appearing in con films), Michael Sheen, Dan Stevens and Steve Buschemi. One could say that Gere is too good looking an actor to play a shady character like Norman. But one could argue too that as Gere said, when he was here for the film at TIFF that it shows that there is a Norman in each one of us.

The film is shot partly in Hebrew and English in New York City where the story is set. NORMAN is not bad but could be better. And why not?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXFCrl37HzU
 

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Film Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (BELLE ET LA BETE) (USA 2017) ****

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

beautyandthebeast.jpgDirector: Bill Condon
Writers: Stephen Chbosky (screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay)
Stars: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline

Review by Gilbert Seah

Right after two blockbuster films LOGAN and KONG: SKULL ISLAND with lots of killings and dead bodies, comes the musical family fantasy animation/live action to sober audiences back to sugar sweetness.

Having no desire to see a musical live-action Disney re-make of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the film proves to be a surprise where magic, music and romance can still charm the hell out of a hardened audience.

It is still the same story, based on the French fairy tale novel BELLE ET LA BETE by Barbot de Villeneuve, most would be familiar with A handsome selfish price is cursed by an enchantress to be a beast forever unless he is saved by falling in love (both ways) before the last petal of her rose falls.

Belle (Emma Watson) is the young woman who is taken prisoner by the Beast in his castle in exchange for the freedom of her father Maurice (Kevin Kline). Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and she learns to look beyond the Beast’s exterior to recognize the true heart and soul of the human Prince within. Meanwhile, a hunter named Gaston (Luke Evans) is on the loose to take Belle for himself and later intends to hunt down the Beast at any cost. He riles up the villagers (FRANKENSTEIN style) to invade the castle, burn it to the ground and slaughter the beast. Belle eventually falls in love with Beast and they waltz together in the grand ballroom to the famous Beauty and he Beast song. Romantics in the audience should have lots of Kleenex handy – especially when Beast utters the tear-jerking line to Belle: “You came back!”

Great pains have been taken to make the film look like a fairy tale. The French village of Villeneuve in the film looks something right out of a fairy tale story book. Belle even sings in the morning, just as Snow White sang to the birds in SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS. There is the icy cold winter surrounding the beast’s castle (like the snow and ice in FROZEN) and the talking tea-pot, cup, candlesticks and clock as in the original animated BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

Watson is perfect as Belle, the beauty but the film’s impressive cast includes stars Emma Thompson (she gets to sing a line of the famous song), Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen and Ewan McGregor.

Gay audiences should be pleased with the gay content in the openly gay director, Bill Condon’s (GODS AND MONSTERS, two TWILIGHT films) film. Josh Gad plays Gaston’s gay sidekick, LeFou (obvious to all except to Gaston) who sings and prances about to no end. During the fight at the Beast’s castle, one of the invaders is given a ‘pretty bad boy make-over’ and he is last seen dancing with LeFou in the grand closing dance scene.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is more a musical than LA LA LAND with most of the songs being memorable and catchy. See it! You will not be disappointed!

Interesting fact: the animated version cost $25 million while this live-action cost $160 million to make.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvW_L8sTu5E

 

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Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

 

Happy Birthday: Dan Stevens

danstevens.jpgDan Stevens

Born: October 10, 1982 in Croydon, Surrey, England, UK

Married to: Susie Hariet (2009 – present) (2 children)

[on the controversy surrounding his leaving the ‘Downton Abbey’ cast to make ‘The Guest’] I couldn’t have sat down two years ago and said, ‘Okay, Julian Fellowes, what I really want to do is a twisted action thriller black comedy with horror elements. Preferably with an American accent’. That would have been insane and highly implausible. But as soon as the opportunity came along it seemed like a reality.

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