Friday, May 5, 2017

Movie Review: "The Dinner" (2017)

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Movie"The Dinner"
Director: Oren Moverman
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours

Two brothers meet for dinner with their wives and eventually discuss a terrible crime committed by their children...if they can get past their petty squabbling long enough to get down to brass tacks.

"The Dinner" is written and directed by Oren Moverman, who is known for films like "Rampart" and "The Messenger." It is based on a novel by Herman Koch, who oddly enough, hated this movie so much, he walked out of the premiere and refused to go to the after party. Well, we are right there with you, Koch. More on this in a second. The film stars an all-star cast of well-rounded, seasoned actors, including Steve Coogan as Paul, a former history teacher with some sort of undisclosed mental illness, Laura Linney as his wife Claire, Richard Gere as his bother Stan, a sitting senator who is campaigning for governor, and Rebecca Hall as Stan's younger second wife Katelyn. The four meet for dinner in a ritzy, exclusive restaurant where Stan hopes to discuss a severe crime their children committed, though it will be a struggle to keep their attitudes in check and stop the bickering and snide in-fighting long enough to actually talk about it.

This is one of those atrociously cynical, unpleasant movies some critics will absolutely eat up because it boasts a true examination into how humans really are and how they really behave, showing the nasty side of humanity. For us, this is an ugly, repulsive story full of unlikable characters who we have absolutely no sympathy for for most of the film. With each passing minute, we hate these characters more and more, and as they slowly reveal their true selves, those who have been painted as villains quickly become the heroes. This is a group of people who are unbearably rude, self-centered, and can't stop being nasty for even one very lavish, very expensive meal. The second Steve Coogan's Paul opens the film, we start to think, "what's with the attitude, buddy?" At first, we think maybe he is throwing a bit of a childish fit because he has bad blood with his brother, but as the movie rolls along, we start to realize he is simply an unbelievable asshole, and no amount of pity the filmmaker/writer tries to make us feel for his character will work, at least not on us. When the most likable character in a movie is a politician, you know the others in their close circle must be truly horrendous, repugnant people.

Beyond its unlikable characters, the structure of "The Dinner" is a bit of a mess. Each course of their luxurious dinner is denoted with a fancy looking text on screen, which serves little purpose other than pointing out the insane, ridiculously specific cheeses, micro-carrots, wines, and seasonal beets this foursome will barely touch in between walking away from the dinner table every five minutes when someone has an outburst.

Director Moverman makes some off-putting choices when it comes to the audio and voice over narration from scene to scene, clearly executed in an attempt to showcase one thing or another with Paul's mind, but in a detriment to the audience. The noises are calamitous, chaotic, and not needed. The Gettysburg flashback scene is one that specifically sticks out as an atrocious, unnecessary misstep, a cataclysmic failure and tiresome clash of sound and light, whirling camera movements mixed with factual audio from what appears to be the actual Gettysburg museum. In fact, many of the flashbacks seem superfluous. We can see within 30 seconds that this family actually despises each other to the core, and have for a long time. Nothing contained in the flashbacks add much insight into why they hate each other beyond mental illness exacerbating an already existing deep-seeded sibling rivalry, and Paul's inadequacy towards himself and jealousy towards his brother.

To be clear, the acting in "The Dinner" is fine, though overacted. But, no amount of stellar thespianism can make a movie about vile, privileged, amoral people who raised spoiled, amoral, sociopathic children redeemable. We truly hated this movie, apart from the delicious looking (albeit absurd) food.

My Rating: 2.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 2.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~53%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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  1. Love every Richard Geer movie until now. This movie skipped around and wasnt enjoyable and the ending was worse than the movie....

    1. Hi Ladina!

      We love Richard Gere as well, and we have been fans of Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall for a long time. It's a shame this was such a bad film, and not just bad, but a poorly made one as well. Sorry you didn't enjoy it!