The Dinner (2017) *** DVD release

March 29th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Oren Moverman; Cast: Richard Gere, Laura Linley, Rebecca Hall, Steve Coogan, Charlie Plummer, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Miles J. Harvey, Cloe Sevigney; USA 2017, 120 min.

Oren Moverman (Time out of Mind) is the third director to brings Herman Koch’s 2009 novel to the screen. By introducing more characters and a reflection of the battle of Gettysburg, he delivers less punch than his predecessors Menno Meyjes and Ivano de Matteo who stayed very close to the original where two sets of parents try to cover up their offsprings’ serious crime History teacher Paul (Coogan) is not keen to join his wife Claire (Linley) at a posh restaurant, for dinner with his brother Stan – who is running for governor – and his second wife Kate (Hall). The rivalry of the brothers is well documented in flashbacks, along with a meeting at the scene of the deciding battle of the American Civil War, where both men reflect on the dominance of violence in American history. Little does Paul know that the dinner guests are well aware of the ghastly murder committed by his son Nick (Plummer) and Stan’s offspring Rick (Davey-Fitzpatrick), burning a homeless to death. The dinner courses are used as chapter headings, and the hilarious serving ceremony by an army of waiters brings light relief to the brutal contents. Stan’s PA, who is in the lobby, also interrupts the discussions, since a vote in House and the forthcoming elections have to be organised. Surprisingly, Stan is alone in wanting the teenagers punished. The others invent excuses, and in the end, Paul goes so far as to try to kill his brother’s adopted son Bean, who is awre of the crimes. The evening ends in pandemonium, the protagonists stripped of their bourgeois masks, defending their tribe with violence, like a pack of wild animals.

The problem here is that Moverman dilutes the plot, with references to Paul’s mental illness, and Stan mentioning the history of these health issues in the family. Furthermore, the introduction of Stan’s first wife Barbara (Sevigney) in the flashbacks, makes this meal feel overstuffed and verbose: more theatre than film, as Coogan, particularly, milking his role for what its worth. DoP Bobby Bukowski (Arlington Road) uses film-noir elements in the restaurant scenes, creating an unreal atmosphere. Moverman’s mealy-mouthed treatment results in a bloated  affair that drifts around desperate for the concentrated flavour of the novel. AS

DVD release on Monday 2nd April.

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