Directed by: Oren Moverman
Starring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Adepero Oduye, Michael Chernus and Chloë Sevigny
Run Time: 2h
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
3 ½ Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
Oren Moverman’s (The Messenger, Love and Mercy) screenplay and film, based on the Herman Koch international best-selling book of the same name, was not well received by the author. Though he may have had his reasons not to like the film, and it makes sense that he would have misgivings if the story deviated too far from the original concept, I assure you that you will not share his sentiment. Actually, watching the movie will make you want to read the book to know the characters even more. The narrative is decidedly conceptual and if you want an entertaining parable, be it book, film or both… this will do the trick. Paul (Coogan), a former teacher, and his brother Stan (Gere), a politician, are meeting for dinner with their wives to discuss a family matter, one that we won’t fully discover until after several flashbacks into the film. This is a non-linear film so if they’re not exactly your cup of tea… see it anyway.
In an engaging yet puzzling battle, we are lead to side with one brother over the other. Paul was brutalized by his brother’s unfair treatment of him. Stan’s cruelty and lack of compassion damaged Paul, not to mention what he went through trying to win his mothers affections. While she refused to recognize Paul’s need for love, she never once ignored Stan and she blanketed him with adoration. She coddled Stan, leaving Paul out. This made him quite bitter but through it all, he found the ability to love and he prevailed. He became a teacher choosing to help develop young minds and become a warrior for the underclass.
However, Paul’s’ genuine nature and character is gradually divulged. Paul is well developed and he’s exposed by the incredible care taken by Coogan to slowly unveil him. Little touches reveal his true temperament which, by the end of the movie, has you wanting to watch the performance again… and then rush to buy the book, of course, to be more involved in the flushing out of exactly why Paul turned into who he does and what Stan endured. Stan’s true nature is slowly revealed, as well, by the fine acting Gere accomplishes and by director Moverman’s awareness that to give away to much of his personality (and what he’s trying to do) would be to give away the heart of the story itself. Their sons are all involved in something devastating and it’s this situation that they’re dealing with and yet it exposes so much about each of them you almost forget the problem exists.
Equal to Gere’s fine performance, Coogan’s little touches exhibit his profoundly affected self which, by the end of the film, will have you standing up to applaud. As I mentioned, you’ll most certainly want to read the book to dig deeper into these characters… especially the ones that the film barely has time to touch upon. The Dinner is a well-crafted story that’s cast extremely well all the way down to the narrator at Gettysburg. It’s rich with subtext underlying what is wrong with society today by focusing on one family who has it all and who takes advantage of that fact. However, through all the pain, through all of the injustices that incur, some good does come out of this but is it enough to atone for their proverbial sins? Will they be able to sleep at night? What may plague you by the end of the film is one question. What have they created by allowing the family matter to go away virtually unaddressed?
There is a paperback re-release of the book around the time of theatrical release and the film will be…
Available for Download on Aug. 1st
Available on VOD on Aug. 8th