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Two brothers and their wives meet at a haute-cuisine restaurant to discuss how they’ll handle a horrific, senseless and ferociously violent crime committed by their sons. As each course is served, the four discuss their lives, their son’s futures and reopen old wounds between the siblings.
The third adaptation of Herman Koch’s international best seller darts between tense restaurant scenes as a fractured family attempts to address the hideousness of their son’s actions, and revealing flashbacks, which unravel the numerous dramatic strands of the brothers and their lives. Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall are each able to imbue their characters and relationships with a grounded reality, and in another film I would have revelled in their performances. Unfortunately, The Dinner continually misfires with its tone and there is a distinct lack of payoff to some of the more interesting developments.
There is a thin thread of humour that has absolutely no place in this movie. We flit from grotesque violence to a lighter moment involving mental illness. The pacing is spasmodic, the voice-over is picked up for periods of time and later forgotten, and at no point do we get to savour the performances, which manage to transcend the ill-forged mystery and “thriller” elements. After both Rampart and Time Out of Mind I was looking forward to Oren Moverman’s adaptation but it is apparent that this is a story that required space to breathe. While it was perhaps the filmmaker’s intention to deliver a collage of disparate and chaotic family moments, the lack of a distinct tone and journey make this an unsatisfying experience.
The Dinner contains flashes of greatness. It has a superb cast, an interesting narrative structure and an appealing soundtrack. Sadly, the execution left me wanting, as the tonal shifts, sporadic lulls and flaccid final reel failed to make an impact. I was going to end on a pithy pun like, “fails to find second Gere” but I’ll end on a final positive.
At least the food looked incredible!
The Dinner is released December 8th in the UK
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