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The Dinner (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 110 minutes w/o credits.

Not for children.

Reminiscent of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), this is a psychological thriller film about two couples with a lot of problems. One of the problems is that Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) is recovering from a debilitating nervous breakdown and is still obviously troubled. The other involves a huge problem with a horrible deed done by their respective children. This has caused Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), Paul’s brother and a Congressman running for Governor, to invite his brother and wife, Claire (Laura Linney), to dinner with him and his wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) at a pretentiously posh restaurant. There, they eventually come around to confronting the big problem, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Surrounding their conversations is the ridiculous presentation of each course, explained in ostentatiously excruciating detail by their head waiter, Dylan Heinz (Michael Chernus, who gives a terrific performance). Says writer/director Oren Moverman, “The food is ridiculous and that’s the point. These people’s worlds are falling apart but they’re being presented Pumpernickel Soil. The courses are actually the narrative courses of the story being told.”

In addition to ‘Woolf, the film also reminded me of last year’s Eye in the Sky in the way it handles a controversial problem, attacking it from all sides with each side presenting its case. Based on Herman Koch’s book, Overman clearly takes no position, which is nice, although I found the ending unsatisfying. Still, the acting is terrific.  I can’t single out any of them, although I’m partial to Hall because she continues to give outstanding performance after outstanding performance without getting much credit or any awards recognition (one Golden Globe nomination), because, like ‘Woolf, they all stand out. They are aided by a smart script and a wonderful score, for which I can find no credit.

For a fairly long film full of talk, the pace is outstanding; it passed the watch test with flying colors.