This film by Oren Moverman is a real challenge. It has complex characters, awkward dialogue, intricate construction. No one can accuse The Dinner of being unambitious, but it certainly has an ambitious mess.
What is the movie about
Richard Gere (Stan) makes headlines, but it’s Steve Coogan (Paul) who stars as his brother at the start. He talks with misanthropic cynicism about how the preparations for the dinner party are going. The narrative breaks off at some point and randomly repeats itself throughout the film. This seems unusual. Stan and Paul’s relationship is strained at best, with their wives Kate (Rebecca Hall) and Claire (Laura Linney) mediating. Some shady business seems to have brought them together in a high-end restaurant. The events unfold at a slow pace, intertwined with Stan’s struggle to get a bill passed in Congress, Paul’s obsession with Gettysburg, their children’s suspicious romances, past personal traumas, all set to impressive dishes.
Two dysfunctional parents are trying to figure out what to do about a crime committed by their two young sons. The staging is open, creating a sense of allegory.
Parents hope that no one will find out about the offspring’s crime. However, there is a video of an African American foster brother thinking of blackmailing them. For adults, the situation jeopardizes their own comfort, their lives could be forever changed by disclosure.
So, the central conflict unfolds in an incredibly chic restaurant with a unique set of dishes.
Stan Loman, elegantly played by Richard Gere, is a congressman running for governor ahead of the mental health bill. It is noteworthy that his brother, former history teacher Paul (Steve Coogan), has mental problems. Unfortunately, Paul sabotages every conversation, so he is dangerous to any audience forced to endure his diatribes.
A master of verbal sparring, a congressman considers giving up his political future for the future of his son’s mental health, that is, telling everything to the press.
His wife Claire (Laura Linney) and sister-in-law Caitlin (Rebecca Hall) try to dissuade Stan, while Paul gradually drifts away from him due to his insanity and ignorance. Whatever the case, writer-director Oren Moverman does an effective job of tracking the transition from the dinner itself to the boys’ crimes.
The meaning of the film
When viewed, viewers may get the impression that the writers want to be too explicit in defending Stan’s high moral principles, they convincingly show the intricate web of deceit, as well as the corrosive nature of silence for this garrulous critic.
Since this entertaining stage drama is built on idealism and pragmatism and all that surrounds them, it’s nice to know that some family problems of high-ranking people are almost insoluble, and at collective American dinners, even unspoken words are sometimes time bombs.
For a film that seeks to tackle the lofty theme of social inequality, Dinner begins with a very personal feeling. As events unfold, the camera distances itself from Paul to focus on the big picture and focus on Stan. This is a difficult move, as the viewer develops a certain sense of alienation, as a result of which he has to put up with deep flaws that manifest themselves in the “object of affection”. This confuses the viewer.
But even this cannot be considered a final catastrophe. Stan, along with Kathy and Claire, managed to capture the attention of the audience. Far from friendly negotiations over dinner in a fashionable restaurant, the word “struggle” can be applied here. The whole point of the last thirty minutes of conversation at the table boils down to unacceptable rudeness, but in an intuitive sense, these conversations, turning into obscene ones, are even fascinating.
Are the themes and motifs of the dialogues compatible? It’s hard to find a “red thread” here to help the viewer get through this, as Paul’s Hobbesian worldview is countered by discussions of mental illness, political maneuvering, and family disagreements. The screenwriters encourage viewers to search for personal interpretations of the allegorical content, which is very funny and useful, but the film turns out to be tough in formulating its own moral questions and imperatives. Along with the schizophrenic identity dilemma, this trick works against itself in the final scenes.
Movie ending explanation
The ending is open, and the moral dilemma is based on personal differences and views on how to resolve these dilemmas, referring to several schools of ethics, such as teleology, deontology, and utilitarianism.
The tension, the grotesque and obscene exuberance of the dinner scenes, even some of the spontaneous monologues, are appealing. The freedom of interpretation made some of the dullest moments worthwhile, but a lot more restraint would have made The Dinner into something very special. Despite the negative nuances, Oren Moverman’s film is a worthy exploration of how messy the pursuit of social and philosophical consistency can be.