Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Richard Gere stars in Andrew Renzi's what's-going-on-here? movie, THE BENEFACTOR

Richard Gere has been around now for forty years, aging from a sexy young leading man into a sexy senior-citizen leading man, working almost constantly and rarely missing a beat. His performances are usually fine, even if some of the films he stars in are not. A few years back he made quite a stir in the movie Arbitrage, one of the early and quite successful ventures into simultaneous theatrical and VOD release that garnered critical acclaim, good box-office and even some awards. For anyone expecting something as exceptional as Arbitrage from Gere's newest film, THE BENEFACTOR, disappointment awaits.

As this movie unfurls (and finally unravels), it becomes less and less clear what writer/director Andrew Renzi had in mind to create, or even what kind of film this actually is: mystery, thriller, family drama, melodrama, character study (maybe all of the above?). Finally, it works as none of these. A two-generation saga of friendship, love, loss, guilt and retribution, the story pops back and forth between those generations, uncovering plot strands but deepening character not one whit.

What we do know is that our "hero," Franny (Mr. Gere, above), has been a very rich man for a very long time. Now he seems to want to spread his largess to the daughter and soon to be son-in-law of his late best friends (whom, yes, he had a hand in the accidental death of).

That daughter is played by Dakota Fanning, above, looking lovely and somewhat lost in this bizarre mess of a movie. The role of her affianced is essayed by up-and-comer Theo James, below, who looks mildly annoyed through much of the film, and who can blame him?

A slow-burning who-is-this-guy-and-what-is-going-on movie, The Benefactor is well into its second half before some real conflict appears and a secret reveals itself.  Gere laughs a lot, but what does this mean? Is it an acting choice? A director's mistake? And while money, as we know so well, cannot buy everything, what it cannot buy in this film seems more than a little ridiculous.

To say more about plot would spoil what little real mystery the movie possesses, so I will only mention that anyone this rich could take care of his "problem" quite easily -- particularly given the society we inhabit here in America today. When the chips are finally down, instead of confronting reality, filmmaker Renzi opts out for feel good. Too bad. This is one silly movie, despite the presence of an attractive cast and Mr. Gere.

From Samuel Goldwyn Films and running 90 minutes, The Benefactor opens this Friday, January 15, in theaters and On-Demand. Consult your local theater listing and/or cable provider for specifics.

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