The Dinner is a film adaptation of an international bestselling book with a highly plausible plot all the darker for being completely believable. In the age of helicopter parents, entitlement culture, and a decided lack of real connection between the haves and have-nots, parents getting together to talk about what to do about their kids is not an uncommon occurrence.
Stan (Richard Gere) and Paul (Steve Coogan) are brothers. They don’t particularly like each other and do a half-ass job of pretending otherwise. Stan is a highly regarded politician running for Governor and Paul is a retired school teacher. They’re each married to a woman who’s seemingly they’re perfect foil.
The film starts off with Paul indulging in a (tedious) monologue that makes very little sense and slides into the opening dialogue between he and his wife Claire (Laura Linney) where you quickly get the sense that a) he doesn’t want to go so dinner – because he says so – and b) something is off with this guy. Shortly thereafter, you see Stan in a van with a visibly upset wife, Katelyn Lohman (Rebecca Hall), as they travel in tense silence to a dinner neither looks excited about.
Between painstakingly prepared and exquisitely plated courses, these couples talk at cross purposes, rehash old hurts, pick at old wounds and are a wait-staff’s – dear god why won’t this table go home already – nightmare fuel as they each in turn avoid the reason they’ve gotten together.
The movie bounces between the present and the past in cycles; the sequences explain the hostility between the brothers as well as – eventually – expose the events that are the reason for this get together. It should’ve built tension, conflicted feelings, and provoked discomfort (particularly if you’re a parent who’s ever found themselves making an excuse for their child, or judging someone else’s kid out loud). But these adults are unrelentingly full of themselves and the kids more than little sociopathic. No one has any manners, or regard for others, or redeeming qualities to draw the audience in to being conflicted along with them. The excuses they make – to each other and for their families – are noxious, toxic, and exactly what the word elitist actually refers to in modern society.
Each course of the meal is meant to coincide with peeling back a layer of this family’s dysfunction and circle ever-closer to the secret that’s brought them all together. Instead you forced to sit through a barely coherent, inexplicably disjointed, self-involved drama.
This might be the whitest storyline I’ve been subjected to in a while. I’ve delayed my review, re-watched the movie, and still can’t come up with a more apt way to describe what this story subjected me to. Despite a highly capable ensemble of actors, not one of these adults comes across as anything other than poorly fleshed-out, shallow caricatures of toxic privilege and bad parenting in action.
This movie should’ve been an unsettling peek into the perspective and motives of parents at war – with each other and themselves – about how to balance their own wants/needs, the best interest of their children, and doing the right thing. Unfortunately, Oren Moverman’s script is too paper-thin and his direction too self-serving to connect all the threads of this winding story together into a compelling movie. Transition between scenes in the restaurant and numerous flashbacks are rough and never fully mesh to create a rooted story that you give the first damn about.
The movie fails to build needed tension, gives you little reason to invest in the emotions of the characters, and relies heavily on distasteful stereotypes and class-based tropes to drive home its message (which is not what the author intended or how this story unfolds in the novel). The Dinner is a film adaptation that left far too much substance between the book covers.
For a story purportedly about people facing a deeply disturbing set of events and a stressful moral dilemma, The Dinner barely explains what’s going on before fizzling out into unresolved nothingness.
Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5
When Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), a popular congressman running for governor, invites his troubled younger brother Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife Claire (Laura Linney) to join him and his wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) for dinner at one of the town’s most fashionable restaurants, the stage is set for a tense night. While Stan and Paul have been estranged since childhood, their 16-year- old sons are friends, and the two of them have committed a horrible crime that has shocked the country. While their sons’ identities have not yet been discovered and may never be, their parents must now decide what action to take. As the night proceeds, beliefs about the true natures of the four people at the table are upended, relationships shatter, and each person reveals just how far they are willing to go to protect those they love.
Cast : Richard Gere,Laura Linney,Steve Coogan,Chloë Sevigny
Directed by: Oren Moverman
Screenplay by: Oren Moverman
Based on the novel by Herman Koch
Release Date : 5 May 2017
Genre : Mystery, Drama