By Adam Ray Palmer
Director, screenwriter, producer and former journalist Oren Moverman brings to the Berlinale an original drama with an incredible cast.
The Dinner sees Moverman reunite with Richard Gere from his previous directed film, Time Out of Mind. Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall and Laura Linney are also on-board here.
The Dinner is adaptation of Dutch author Herman Koch’s 2009 novel of the same name.
The Dinner centres around a meeting of immediate family members in a restaurant. The sons of two brothers, Paul (Steve Coogan) and Stan (Richard Gere), have committed a crime but are yet to be identified. The next two hours reveals dark family secrets that the parents must discuss and decide how to deal with the situation.
Richard Gere is Stan Lohman, an ambitious congressman and political celebrity, currently striving to have a legislation on mental health passed. He has a stressed, beautiful second wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) – a self-proclaimed gold-digger too. They are having dinner with Stan’s difficult brother Paul (Steve Coogan), a history teacher who can’t stand his brother’s superficial ego and image. Paul’s wife Claire (Laura Linney) is always by his side. They are all meeting for dinner for a specific reason, their teenage kids have done something terrible, which has so far had to be covered up, not least from Paul, as the family hides things away from him because of a history of mental instability and depression.
Chemistry in The Dinner is everything. However, the minimal amount of it makes the movie uneasy. For the quartet, being a family, their chemistry must be paramount. Whether a family is really close, or hating on each other, there’s always chemistry on some level. In The Dinner, the chemistry is forced and it makes the film feel artificial.
The two-hour runtime is relentlessly long. Each time a character leaves the table, your thoughts are screaming, “Nooo, get back to the table so the movie can end”. Amazingly, the film is a slow-burner for an hour and forty minutes, and then the final 20 minutes (which are pivotal as the dilemma is dealt with) ends up being rushed climaxing with frustrating sequences of melodrama.
The Dinner is helmed by five very experienced talents but it somehow turns fatigued. It’s a simple narrative that is extended for the worse. There’s minimal add-on scenes that are away from the table that offer worthy value, a lot of them are repetitive. The flashbacks are long, dramatically slack and the film’s structure get lost in these underpowered cutaways.
In the era of YouTube and social media and families getting more and more distant at the dinner table, this seems to be a vision of what could be. Not necessarily the horrific crime committed, but filming and sharing stupid things are all the rage. It’s just a shame The Dinner is untidy and slips in and out of a Tom Ford arthouse movie. The film just becomes tedious and resembles a sparkler fizzling out at a disappointingly lacklustre firework display.
Cineroom’s Rating: 2 Stars
The Dinner premiered at the Berlinale on 10th February 2017 – certificate TBC