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Review: The Dinner

Saw The Dinner at Sunshine Cinema. It’s a pretty solid drama, but not without its share of flaws. The plot is fairly straightforward: two sets of parents convene at a fancy restaurant to discuss a horrible—but as yet unsolved—crime committed by their teenage sons. Unfortunately, the screenplay crams far too much material into this simple setup; frequent flashbacks and cutaways disrupt the flow of the narrative and diminish the suspense of the immediate conflict. Additionally, the film never really develops a consistent mood; abrupt scene transitions and a few questionable musical choices occasionally took me straight out of even the most poignant moments.

Despite these structural and tonal shortcomings, when The Dinner hits the right emotional notes, it does so with enough force to demolish a brick wall. Steve Coogan’s performance as a high school history teacher struggling with mental illness is especially compelling, though Richard Gere’s guilt-ridden politician takes some equally fascinating and surprising turns—particularly in his later interactions with his wife (played by Rebecca Hall, who brings dimension and nuance to what could have been a flat and generic “social climber” archetype). 

Ultimately, the movie is at its best when it finally traps its central characters in a room together, allowing the viewer to observe as relationships unravel and morality deteriorates in real time. It just goes off on a few too many tangents along the way.

[Originally written May 7, 2017.]

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I am looking forward to seeing this movie; the plot seems perfect for this cast.

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