Berlinale: The Dinner

The Dinner
Directed by Oren Moverman
Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall and Chloë Sevigny

by Laura Patricia Jones

I arrived for The Dinner not sure of what to expect. I knew it was based on a bestselling book (always a good start) and had a stellar cast – Laura Linney, Rebecca Hall, Richard Gere, Chloë Sevigny and Steve Coogan – five very talented actors, so I was very excited!

What I actually got was disappointment, confusion and sheer bewilderment – over 120 minutes of my life that I wasn’t going to get back. This isn’t to say that individual scenes and the characters themselves weren’t of merit, but everything else was mashed together likely a badly served up, erm, dinner. It was like making your way through a buffet and then when it comes to dessert, they bring out another tray of sausage rolls so you’re stuffed with no real closure.

The Dinner focuses on the story of two brothers and their wives meeting for a tense dinner at an upmarket restaurant, to discuss a difficult predicament with their children. Stan (Richard Gere) the silver fox congressman, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) his gorgeous second wife, Paul (Steve Coogan) his resentful, pessimistic (and later we discover manic depressive) brother, and Paul’s long suffering wife Claire (Laura Linney). Their children are cousins and close friends, but we discover that they have done something terrible that the family need to either conceal or reveal.

With flashbacks to Paul’s mania and varying family troubles, we begin to develop a backstory to the families, thinking we’re meant to be unpicking some kind of family mystery. But we’re not – it just becomes one of those uncomfortable dinner parties that you feel you can’t leave, you just need to see it through.

As a standalone character, Coogan’s portrayal of Paul and the mania of mental illness is impressive and well delivered. Linney’s depiction of the lengths a mother will go to for her child is equally noteworthy, but the rest just left me a little flat. Special praise to Michael Chernus as maître d’ Dylan, whose comic relief not only holds together the dinner itself, but the film too – Cheers Mike!

I’d suggest you not go out of your way to watch The Dinner, unless you’re desperate for something to watch on Netflix on a Saturday night and fancy a bit of Richard Gere’s silver-foxing.





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