Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Dinner - Oren Moverman (2017)

For the first act of "The Dinner," you will have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on.

 At the start of "The Dinner," Paul, (Steve Coogan) his wife, Claire, (Laura Linney) are getting ready to have dinner with Paul's brother and U.S. Congressman, Stan (Richard Gere) and his wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall.)

Coogan gives the most memorable performance of the film. He plays Paul as a neurotic, like a subdued Woody Allen.

Paul stubbornly insists on staying home and skipping the dinner. There's history aside from this crisis and Paul clearly wants to avoid it.

The get-together is the stage for a confrontation. This is urgent business that pulls Stan away from the demands of his office and forces to focus, just for one evening, on his family.

Filmmaker Oren Moverman takes us back and forth between our quaint table of four and to sequences of events past.

Paul and Claire's son, Michael, as well as his cousin Rick, Stan and Katelyn's son, are in trouble. There is a recording of the boys viciously attacking a homeless women who was trying to sleep in an ATM vestibule.

Not only is there surveillance footage, but the boys recorded the event on their phones. 

Now, the depraved recording may be released and the boys will be exposed.

The third act, when the cards slowly lay themselves down on the table, is as intense as any suspense film.

As we learn more about the perverse attack, expect your sympathies to switch from one character to another. 

One thing Moverman does masterfully is surprise us through the film, changing our perspectives of the different characters.
The one member of the quartet who seems like a rational adult, the one who keeps the family at peace at first, is revealed as a cold monster in one scene toward the end.

"The Dinner" wears many hats. It's a mystery and a thriller. It's about inter-family antagonism and racial hostility. It's about thriving and failing marriages. It's a rare look inside the head of a mentally ill man. And it's a story of unshakable, if misplaced, love.

The character, who comes off as busy, stand-offish and shallow in the first act, turns out to be the one in the group who has a conscience.

The imagery of the film is heavy-handed to say the least. The brothers' conflict is illustrated through Paul's obsession with the Civil War. And there's a shot of Paul's reflection in a broken mirror, and overused and obvious picture of mental illness.

But these are minor complaints.

"The Dinner" has been marketed as a drama, but it's as unsettling as most horror film I've seen and more suspenseful than most thrillers.

Prepare yourself to be ashamed to be a human being. then, for the love of God, watch this film.


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