Like “Manchester by the Sea,” “The Dinner” mixes together the past and the present in order to explain the story; and like “Norman,” it also features a charming performance from Richard Gere. But unlike those two, “The Dinner” is overdosed on its narrative and lacks the character study it needs, or at least it keeps stopping on the breaks every 15 seconds.
Steve Coogan (with an American accent) is the best thing about the movie as Paul, a History teacher, who wanted to write a book about the Gettysburg Address, and eventually decides to forget about it, because of how books about it have already been published. He is also suckered into going to a fancy restaurant with his wife Claire (Laura Linney), his brother Stan (Gere), and his new wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall). Stan is a congressman running for Governor, and he must go to dinner to settle some family problems.
Since I’m not recommending this movie, I might as well say that Paul’s son Michael (Charlie Plummer) is in trouble. He and his cousin (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) were attacking a homeless woman (Onika Day), because she was sleeping in front of their ATM machine. They throw garbage at her, and matches, resulting in her immediate death. They film it, and their adoptive cousin (Miles J. Harvey) posts it online. Claire knew about what Michael did, and never told Paul, and he attacks her for not allowing him into the situation.
Based on Herman Koch’s novel, “The Dinner” offers such fine performances from Coogan, Gere, Linney, Hall, and Plummer, but the movie doesn’t have much to travel to. It doesn’t explain their kids’ personas very well, other them committing arson and murder; it doesn’t offer us the kind of food magic I saw in “Paris Can Wait” (which opens in NY and LA soon); and there is a long montage of Paul’s vision of The Gettysburg Address, which feels off topic.
I saw this movie at the Red Bank Arts Theater, and about 10-15 minutes left of the picture, the fire alarm went off. It was an accident, but we were able to go back in. One part had no sound, but regained it, and a final scene cuts to the closing credits. People were angry, and one said: “That was the worst ending in the world.” They even checked with the manager of the theater, nearly accusing him of cutting the ending, and he assured them the movie ends like that. I chose not to leave so I can see what happens, but I couldn’t help but feeling the movie needed more or less.