Rated: R for disturbing violent content, and language throughout. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 5, 2017 Released by: The Orchard
From the maker of Rampart and The Messenger comes this occasionally heated, yet hackneyed drama adapted from Dutch novelist Herman Koch (who reportedly wasn't pleased with the result). Though, finally, the outcome has a thoughtful quality about it consistent with its more solemn, less satirical mood; not with the characters and their motivations.
Oren Moverman's The Dinner stars Richard Gere (who shined for the director/writer in his Time Out Of Mind), Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, and Laura Linney and is relocated from Amsterdam to an unnamed U.S. metropolis. Two couples gather at a posh eatery but simmering grim issues regarding their sons (Charlie Plummer, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) rise to the surface. Besides themes regarding civilized society in terms of class and what lies just beneath.
Gere's slick, urbane Congressman Stan Lohman meets up with disgraced, malcontented teacher brother Paul (Coogan of Michael Winterbottom's The Trip with a broad American accent) with respective spouses Hall's underused, quick-witted Katelyn (Stan's second) and Linney's long-suffering, if hard-hearted Claire.
The way Moverman structures everything with eponymous courses from aperitifs to desserts seemingly dividing it up (with title cards) and an obsequious server (a dry Michael Chernus) very descriptive of them. However, recollecting (metaphorical ?) narrative branches is more of a detrimental detour, from a trance-like historical visit to a famous battle site to personal struggles/demons probably stemming from familial (specifically maternal) emotional disorder.
When it stays at the table, The Dinner can be piquant, tart adult entertainment, but it has a tendency like everyone's PDAs to veer from the task at hand. And, Moverman doesn't have the assured approach with the richness of Koch's prose (not extracting more levity from it doesn't help either) earlier demonstrated.
Even if Gere's ethical relativism to his rising politico has imperious charm and Coogan's perturbed Paul (seeing his distinguished sibling as awfully preening) displaying some unexpected dramatic range, while Linney pungently exudes the iciness of a Lady Macbeth. If this combustible four-handler had a little more of Katelyn's acuity (or more of the panache of Roman Polanski's snappy, if stagey Carnage) a smoother rendering of difficult questions raised would have made for compelling cinematic delicacy (more to its author's palate).