Director: Oren Moverman
Writer: Oren Moverman
Based on: Herman Koch‘s novel
Cast: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Chloë Sevigny, Michael Chernus, Charlie Plummer, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Miles J. Harvey
Seen on: 20.6.2017
Paul (Steve Coogan), a history teacher, and his wife Claire (Laura Linney) are meeting Paul’s brother Stan (Richard Gere), a successful politician, and his second wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) for dinner. Paul obviously doesn’t want to go, he doesn’t actually like Stan a lot and he’s struggling with his mental health. But something happened that involves Paul and Claire’s son, as well as Stan’s kids from his first marriage. And the four present parents need to decide what to do about what happened.
The Dinner managed to completely dismantle white, rich privilege without ever leaving the privileged perspective. Nothing in this film is okay, but it is worth looking at the issues exactly because of that.
It’s not easy to get that much into the heads of the characters and still be able to keep a critical distance to their decisions and actions. But that’s just what Overman pulls off. He examines with surgical precision the emotional and historical strands of the very complex relationships the characters have with each other (wonderfully enacted by a stellar cast). As you always see where they’re coming from, you can see how they make their decisions.
But that is not the same as condoning those decisions. And that the film definitely doesn’t do. For a while the “correct” solution seems to be an option, but that solution would have meant accepting the possibility that they’d lose some of their status. And that possibility is more horrifying to all of them than the actual crime committed.
That is a horrible conclusion and it’s terrifying how normal it is for all of them. It really wasn’t easy to watch the film. It made me flinch more than once and a darkness settled in the pit of my stomach the longer things went on. The lavish sets, the beautiful food, the good-looking and well-dressed people who have a civil conversation – all of that is not enough to cover up the sense of rot that permeates everything. (And I’m not saying that less privileged folks wouldn’t make the same decisions, only that they usually don’t have a choice about any of it.)
Nevertheless, you keep hoping that maybe they’ll go with what’s right all along. And this is not a dilemma here: it’s clear what the right thing to do would be. The tension – and there is a lot of it – comes from the question whether they’ll run out of excuses to do what’s right. It’s gut-wrenching to watch, but in a productive way.
Summarizing: Worth it.