The Dinner – Review

thedinnerposterThe Dinner (2017)
R | 2h | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 5 May 2017 (USA)

Synopsis: Based on Herman Koch’s international bestselling novel, Oren Moverman’s THE DINNER is a dark psychological thriller about a fierce showdown between two couples during the course of an ornately prepared meal at a fancy restaurant.

Click here to listen to my interview with writer/director Oren Moverman

Review: Matt Mungle

My review of the new adaptation of the Koch novel THE DINNER is for those who, like me, have never read the book. Nor do I remember much about the other adapted films before this one. I went in with no preconceived idea or familiarity with the characters, twists, or plot lines. This allowed me the chance to approach writer/director Oren Moverman’s translation with a fresh perspective. Which may be a slight advantage.

Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) and his wife Claire (Laura Linney) are about to attend dinner with Paul’s high profile politician brother Stan (Richard Gere) and his young wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall). You can tell immediately that Paul is not happy about the gathering and you sense that there is enough past baggage between him and his brother to fill a semi trailer. At the same time you also recognize that Paul is pretty neurotic about a lot of things. Stan is the text book politician. A charming, focused, wordsmith who you like but can’t fully trust. Gere’s good looks and “would I lie” smile help elevate the characters persona. This difference in personality added to the subtle foreboding tone of the film makes it intriguing from the start.

As the story unfolds you find out more about Stan and Paul’s past but also the current need for this get together. It seems their teenaged children – Stan’s and Paul’s – have been involved in a horrific crime; one that can not be overlooked. As the conversations become more heated each of these adults voices concerns over how to best handle this situation. Chalk it up as young indiscretion? Make them pay fully for their actions? The answers are not easy and the pre-existing animosity makes clear thinking almost impossible. These elements all combine to create a well made thriller that has you searching your own feelings.

Four people at a dinner table with a few flashback moments has to have not only expert acting but precise direction and editing. The Dinner can’t help but feel like a stage play due to the setting and minimal scene changes. But I like that about the film. It adds a true sense of intimacy and almost a claustrophobia that enhances the drama. The conflict wraps itself around you and is hard to shake loose. Much of that is smart filmmaking from Moverman.

All the performances are standout but Coogan rises above them all with his nervous energy and smoldering hatred for his brother. He delivers his lines like a venomous adder. Paul is angry at many things and his only out seems to be in speech. Stan on the other hand has learned the art of diplomacy. He is calm and tries to keep those around him at ease too. He constantly feels the need to apologize for his brothers outbursts. The wives sit by plotting their own agendas with more subdued delivery; but never lacking in power.

I give THE DINNER 3 out of 5 menu options. The time spent at the table is the most enjoyable. Granted we need the backstories and moments with the teens to understand the plot. But those only distract from the meat and potatoes that really give this film quality. It is rated R for disturbing violent content, and language throughout. Obviously an adult film with mature themes. There is nothing offensive in here and if you are thinking of a date night outing that isn’t light comedy or action this would be a solid choice for sure.