Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer
Directed by: Joseph Cedar
Starring: Stars: Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Michael Sheen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dan Stevens, Josh Charles and Steve Buscemi
Run Time: 1h 57min
Genre: Drama, Thriller
By: Shari K. Green
4 out of 5 Frames
Norman is the new film by Academy Award® nominated director Joseph Cedar. In my opinion, having been only nominated could change with this absorbing and compelling narrative. The film is remarkable. Immediately, the title may lead you astray. You’ll think this is just a story about a simple, meek and non-threatening older man named Norman Oppenheimer (Gere), which is a brilliant maneuver on the part of Cedar, who also wrote and produced the movie, to set you at ease right off the bat. It doesn’t allow for the watcher to be suspicious of any of Norman’s activities. He seems to be as unassuming as they come. At the start of the film, Norman is asking his nephew Philip (Sheen) who’s a lawyer, for information on a client. Philip’s client is necessary for him to set up a deal where he can benefit financially and move up in the political and financial world of New York. He promises the deal is so good, everyone will prosper, including Philip. Less than excited about it, the dutiful Philip gives him the name of Bill Kavish (Stevens). When he tries to speak with him we see the real Norman and his vulnerabilities exposed; he’s a nobody with no experience. He’s a New York dealer trying to get the right connections hoping to join with the right people so that maybe something will pay off.
The film goes into four Acts. Each is titled. The first is, A Foot in the Door, because, a meeting finally does pay off. He meets Micha Eshel, played by Lior Ashkenazi, who is brilliant in the movie. Eshel is an up and comer in Israeli politics. Norman sees Eshel admiring a pair of very pricey shoes and purchases them for him as a favor. Several years later, we’re into Act Two which is Backing the Right Horse… and we learn that Norman did. The shoes make it into several inventive and important shots. When Act Two starts, we see them being worn by the new Prime Minister of Israel. We move up from the shoes to the face of the person wearing them and it’s Eshel. Norman sees him backstage after an event and Eshel instantly recognizes him. Norman finally has an in with someone in power. Soon, we see some truly imaginative visuals and editing on the part of cinematographer Yaron Scharf (Footnote) and editor Brian A. Kates (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Kill Your Darlings) to not only fill in an awful lot of the story in ingenious and stimulating ways but to keep us entertained. You’ll be absolutely engrossed at what Cedar came up with to cover a few phone calls Norman has to make.
Eventually, a relevant character emerges; Alex Green (Gainsbourg). She’s cold when Norman tries to get her to open up to him but then reverses it on him and begins to ask him questions… questions he should realize he shouldn’t be answering. Cedar characters are so well developed, Norman in particular, that you being to worry about him; especially as flaws surface, such as talking about Eshel to strangers and his inability to tell the truth to anyone. It’s critical to him that he is a friend of an important leader to get favors for one friend or another. Those lies and promises start to stack one on top of the other. How he hasn’t had a heart attack by now is beyond comprehension.
Without revealing too much about this provocative film or of who the real Norman is, Cedar does an extraordinary job of getting us to feel for the man he is or who we think he is. He is compassionate… or is he? He’s reliable and virtuous… or is he? He’s a small man trying to get something to finally hit for his friends and finally for himself. Maybe it has or it hasn’t… all due to a pair of shoes. This is an amazing film with some outstanding acting. Josh Charles has a small role but is noteworthy, as well as Gainsbourg but then everyone in this cast does an exceptional job bringing this impressive script to life and you don’t want to miss it. This is a must see as soon as possible.