FILM REVIEW: THE DINNER (USA 2016) ***1/2

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

the_dinner.jpgA look at how far parents will go to protect their children. Feature film based on a novel by Herman Koch.

Director: Oren Moverman
Writers: Oren Moverman (screenplay), Herman Koch (novel)
Stars: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan

Review by Gilbert Seah

 THE DINNER is basically a four handler psychological drama which shows how far parents will (or will not go) to protect their children. In THE DINNER, two family of parents sit down to a dinner at a posh restaurant to discuss the implications of their children who have killed a homeless woman by setting her on fire.

As appropriate for a film entitled THE DINNER, the film is told in four parts – aperitif, main course, dessert and digestif. The film also contains acute and often hilarious observations, lightening the film’s serious theme, of the posh restaurant. It is clear that director Oren is not fond of these hip establishments. Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) constantly hurls insults at the waiters and servers to the point of vulgarity. It is of great relief that at one point the maitre’d finally tells him off.

Director Moverman (THE MESSENGER, LOVE AND MERCY) is expert at getting the audience’s attention and creating drama at the dinner table. This is evident at the one hour mark of the film when all the hidden facts of the incident are slowly revealed. The key confrontation scene takes place in the Library section of the restaurant. It is really odd that the music is played quite obtrusively during the conversation. I am not sure whether this is done on purpose to up the ante during the segment because the music is really loud and annoying. It is certain that this kind of music is never played at any restaurant’s waiting area.

Steve Coogan ditches his British accent to play a sarcastic American teacher. The reason he was chosen for this film THE DINNER has likely something to do, though it does out really matter, being in the food/restaurant critic films THE TRIP and THE TRIP TO ITALY. Coogan, known to be sarcastic in real life, steals the show, managing to elicit a few laughs from his sarcastic remarks at the awkward dinner situation. It is surprising that he gets second billing to Richard Gere, likely because this is an American film and Americans might not know who Coogan is. Gere is quiet in the first half of the film, showing his true acting colours only after the second half. Laura Linney is as usual, very good as the mentally disturbed wife.

The film accurately touches the right chord on when human beings cannot come to an agreement and cannot no longer live with each other. This comes about, as the film demonstrates, when ones basic principles go against another’s. Stan wants his son to pay for his crime, his wife does not and neither does Paul’s wife Claire. It is clear that mothers will normally go all out to protect their children, particularly sons, while fathers are more inclined to teach their sons to do what is right.

Moverman manœuvres his film towards an exciting climax where no one can foresee who will do what at the end. The ending turns up quite a brilliant touch too (not to be revealed in the review).

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP26KWVw5jE

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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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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: Richard Gere

richardgere.jpgRichard Gere

Born: August 31, 1949 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Pretty Woman (1990) is something I never would have done. Neither is An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). I had no interest in these scripts whatsoever. It was the same person knocking my door down on both of them, Jeffrey Katzenberg, first at Paramount, then at Disney, who was one of my first friends out here and still is. At the point of Pretty Woman (1990), I had been kind of out of things for a while. I consciously [had] just said, “Going off to do other things” and I fucked up my career to the point where [people weren’t saying], “Well, let’s get Gere to do that”. I had to crawl a little bit to get scripts. Doing Internal Affairs (1990), for instance, was a very difficult decision for me to make because, potentially, that could have been such a piece of shit. It turns out to be one of my favorite movies and best experiences, too.

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2002
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1993
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2007
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Amelia Movie PosterAmelia
dir. Mira Nair
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MOVIE POSTERPRETTY WOMAN
1990
dir. Garry Marshall
Stars:
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Julia Roberts
MOVIE POSTERARBITRAGE
2012
dir. Nicholas Jarecki
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2006
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MOVIE POSTERMOVIE 43
2013
Stars:
Emma Stone
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Richard Gere
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