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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Gere’

Richard Gere

“NORMAN”  My rating: B

118 minutes | |MPAA rating: R

You don’t have to like Norman Oppenheimer, the fast-talking character played by Richard Gere in “Norman,” to appreciate his energy and drive.

Norman is a hustler and a schmoozer, an arm twister and a facile liar. When necessary he can be a party crasher and a stalker.

He appears to be a businessman (his card vaguely reads “Oppenheimer Strategies”) who specializes in putting together deals. More accurately, he puts together people far more capable than himself who can put together deals. With luck Norman gets a cut of the action.

One of the wonders of Gere’s performance (just when did he become such a terrific actor?) is that even while Norman remains a mystery, a cypher, he’s strangely compelling.

(The movie has a secondary title: “The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.” That right there tells you what we can look forward to.)

In the early scenes we see Norman pestering casual acquaintances and heavy hitters on the New York financial scene (among the players are Michael Sheen, Dan Stevens, Josh Charles and Harris Yulin). Outwardly Norman oozes confidence and professionalism. He’s impeccably dressed and groomed.

But beneath that show of casual affluence you get a whiff of angst from a minor player desperate to be part of the big game. Norman is usually broke; he pops Tic Tacs in lieu of meals. He can’t afford an office, conducting all his business over his cell phone.

Writer/director Joseph Cedar’s film turns on Norman’s courting of an Israeli deputy minister visiting the Big Apple for a conference. Eshel (an excellent Lior Ashkenazi) is a bureaucratic  nobody grateful that this apparent go-getter of an American wants to befriend him. Norman even treats him to the city’s most expensive pair of men’s shoes.

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(Left to right) Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall

“THE DINNER”  My rating: C+ 

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Few things are quite as frustrating as watching great actors knock themselves out on material that’s not nearly as good as they are.

“The Dinner,” based on Herman Koch’s best-selling novel (it’s already been dramatized in Dutch and Italian versions), certainly has its moments, most of them provided in killer perfs by Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Rebecca  Hall and especially Laura Linney.

But the film, set mostly in a restaurant so pretentious that the unctuous maitre’d announces each dish’s ingredients practically down to the molecular level, is itself off-puttingly  pretentious. Plus, the characters’ attitudes and behavior are so sleazy that you really can’t find anyone to root for.

In the first scene Paul Loman (Coogan), a former history teacher now working (abortively) on a book about the Civil War, and his wife Claire (Linney) are preparing for a family dinner at a posh eatery.

Paul isn’t keen on the gathering.  It’s the idea of his brother Stan (Gere), a U.S. Congressman now running for governor of their home state, and it’s obvious that the siblings don’t get along. Paul takes a fierce anti-establishment attitude, oozing sneering comments about his politician brother. The awesomely patient Claire somehow gets him into his clothes and out the door.

Once at the restaurant civility rapidly evaporates.  Paul is in a bitchy mood and it’s up to the wives, Claire and Katelyn (Hall), to smooth over the rough patches.

Why has Stan called this conclave?  Well, there’s a family crisis, though writer/director Owen Moverman (“Rampart,” “The Messenger”) takes his sweet time in giving us the details, relying heavily on convoluted flashbacks that almost send the narrative spinning out of control.

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The usual suspects reunite

The usual suspects reunite

“THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL”  My rating: C-

122 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Ideally, a sequel gets made because there’s more to explore in the story or characters.

Most often, though, the sole motive is money.

And you can hear the spare change clanking incessantly beneath the dialogue of “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

The first film was a sleeper hit, thanks to its stellar British cast (Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench), the exotic Indian setting and its amusing blend of expatriate adventure and cheeky septuagenarian sexuality.

It never added up to much, but it went down easily, especially with the gray-haired crowd that rarely gets to see itself portrayed with any sort of dignity on the big screen.

But though this follow-up was made by the same people — director John Madden, screenwriter Ol Parker and the returning players — all the charm seems to have evaporated. It’s a paint-by-numbers effort.

The screenplay gives each of the retiree residents of the Marigold Hotel [added:] in Jaipur a crisis to overcome — usually a romantic one. Contrasting against those late-life liaisons are the impending nuptials of young hotel operator Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) and his beloved Sunaina (Tina Desai).

Fortune hunter Madge (Celia Imrie) has two well-heeled Indian gentlemen on tap but can’t decide which one to marry. Nighy’s Douglas is smitten with Dench’s Evelyn, but he’s too shy to jump and she won’t commit.

Bon vivant Norman (Ronald Pickup) fears that he has inadvertently put out a mob hit on his girlfriend, Carol (Diana Hardcastle).

Muriel (Maggie Smith) grumpily lectures Americans on how to make tea and quietly nurses her concerns when a medical checkup doesn’t go as planned.

These subplots circle a larger story.

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