Tuesday, May 2, 2017

That popular Herman Koch novel, THE DINNER, gets a second go-round via Oren Moverman


Comparisons may be odious, but they're unavoidable when two movies, based on the same popular novel (The Dinner by Herman Koch) follow each other to the screen with only a couple of years in between. TrustMovies did not read the original work, but he did see and cover the first of those films, a fine Italian version with an all-star cast, some 18 months ago (you can find his review here). That initial version is, in every way, better than the latest rendition of THE DINNER, which opens this week. That said, there are a number of good reasons to view this new film, adapted and directed by Oren Moverman (the filmmaker is shown below).

The best reason is to see actor Steve Coogan (below) -- long a terrific comedian who's very good at impersonations, too -- give the performance of his life (so far). Coogan plays one of two brothers (Richard Gere plays the other) who are usually at odds with one another, and what this actor slowly unveils is something to see. To call this performance a revelation is to short-change it entirely. Where your sympathy lies will turn upside down and sideways before the film is finished.

Essaying the roles of the brother's wives are two of our finest actresses -- Laura Linney (below, left) playing Coogan's, and Rebeccs Hall (below, right) as Gere's -- and both are as good as we've come to expect, though Ms Hall and her enormous talent are nowhere near embraced by this far too circumscribed role.

Gere himself, below, continues to give one excellent performance atop another, and he is first-class here, as well, playing the very successful brother (a politician about to begin a run for higher office). Coogan plays the "lesser" brother, always in his sibling's shadow.

The plot hinges on the two couple's children, one of which is heavily involved in a violent incident at a local ATM (below). How all this comes out, and what the quartet of characters intends to do about it makes up the meat of the movie.

As we learn more about that ATM incident, and about the people we're dealing with, sympathies waver, change, and then perhaps change again. Front and center is the narcissistic and entitled culture in which so many of us live today, whether we be the folk who can afford the five-star restaurant at which the titular dinner takes place, or simply those who are the hangers-on.

Mr. Moverman makes far too much of that restaurant, its food and the presentation (above), for we've seen this sort of thing too many times before. He also goes all out in a section of the film midway along in which Gettysburg (below) and its place in the mind and heart of the Coogan character is explored in too much length and detail. While it may make clearer what all this means to the character, it also stops the movie dead in its tracks for a time.

And yet, those four excellent lead performances, together with the engrossing tale that is spun, are good enough to carry the film, keeping us more than hooked and, of course, wondering what we might do if pushed into similar circumstances.

The original Italian version, which I highly recommend, can be purchased or rented/streamed via its U.S. distributor, Film Movement, and can also be streamed currently on Netflix. Meanwhile, you can view the new American version via the information below.

From The Orchard and running a little-too-long two hours, the film hits theaters around the country in one of the widest openings I think this little distributor has so far seen. Here in South Florida, it will play in the Miami area at Regal South Beach 18, AMC Sunset Place 24, AMC Aventura 24; in Ft. Lauderdale at the Silverspot Cinema, The Classic Gateway Theatre, AMC Broward 18 Pompano; and the West Palm Beach area at the AMC Indian River 24, The Living Room Theaters, Regal Shadowood 16, Regal Royal Palm Beach 18, and the Movies of Lake Worth and Movies of Delray, In New York City it plays the AMC Empire 25, the AMC Lowe Lincoln Square and the Landmark Sunshine; and in Los Angeles, it opens at The Landmark in West L.A. (and elsewhere), Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates and/or to find a theater in your area.

2 comments:

Stephen said...

The Netflix link goes to an Italian film with the same title. Is it on Netflix currently?

James van Maanen said...

Yes, Stephen -- the Italian version (featuring the same title) is currently streaming (as of today, at least; I don't know how long it will remain available) on Netflix. But this new American version is only, for the time being, opening in theaters.