Release Date: May 5, 2017
Running Time: 120 minutes
A parent can never do enough to protect their child, even when circumstances dictate it is the wrong thing to do. It is this parental instinct that drives The Dinner, a tension-filled drama from The Messenger director Oren Moverman that focuses on a family torn apart by a horrendous act that threatens the future of two teenagers. Working from a novel by Herman Koch, Moverman slowly reveals via flashback the crisis that the Lohman brothers must resolve during a dinner at a swanky restaurant. Initially, it seems gubernatorial candidate Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) and his trophy wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) want to confront his brother Paul (Steve Coogan) about his mental health issues. A Civil War-obsessed history teacher, Paul is very much in dark about the real issue at hand. His wife Claire (Laura Linney) has shielded him from the truth for fear it would prove to be a setback to his treatment. The Dinner’s first two acts concentrate on Paul’s struggles with his mental faculties as he begins to feel disconnected from his family and his students. Moverman darts back and forth between the terse conversation at dinner—which is underlined by a palpable sense of sibling rivalry between Paul and Stan—and the prior events that find Paul losing grip on his ability to live a normal live. The flashbacks make it hard to track Paul’s trajectory—he always seems to be in a volatile state, which means that Coogan can only present Paul as highly agitated or hostile, or both when it comes to dinner with his brother. But Coogan firmly establishes Paul’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his son, if the need arises. The final act’s revelation does impact Paul hard, but it’s at this point that Overman puts Stan front and center. It is Stan’s decision that matters the most when he comes the fate of his son and Paul’s son. He is the man with the power and the political clout to make things go away, should he so choose. The last 30 minutes find Stan under pressure to do the right thing. What is the right thing for a father and a politician to do? That is the question that Stan grapples with as he listens to the arguments by the Katelyn and Claire that run contrary to his position. Gere—who worked with Overman on 2014’s Time Out of Mind—imbues Stan with such strong moral fiber so he never comes across as one of those phony corporate types he played in so many films. His politician has a conscience that informs every word he utters. He knows in his heart what needs to be done. But Gere articulates the pain and conflict that Stan harbors with such genuineness that it’s next to impossible to guess which direction Stan will go. Protect his child or see justice served. If anything, the final act of The Dinner serves to remind us that Gere is a talent that we have underappreciated for far too long. It’s also a pleasure to watch Gere lock horns with the firm and persuasive Hall and Linney. Given Stan’s political platform, it’s not a surprise that race comes up during the course of The Dinner but Moverman doesn’t seem overly interested in how it serves as a motivating factor in the crime that brings the two Lohman families together or Paul’s actions at the end of the film. The dinner itself is executed with dark humor and pathos, with Paul’s rude beheavior in stark contrast to Stan’s polite demeanor. Through it all, Michael Chernus maintains his dignity as the server who must cater to the needs of the brothers at loggerheads. “Only one side wins in a war,” Paul tells his wife Claire. It’s debatable whether a winner emerges in The Dinner. If so, it comes to a heavy cost.
Aired: May 4, 2017
Web site: https://thedinner.film