by Tim Birkbeck
Family. We all have one, love them or hate them making time for family is something everyone can relate to.
So when popular congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) invites his younger, seemingly nervous, brother Paul (Steve Coogan) the scene is set.
What starts as a rather civil affair, The Dinner, slowly pulls back the curtain to unveil what is the much darker picture underneath.
If you came to this evening meal expecting a food fight, then you have come to the wrong establishment. Writer and director Oren Moverman relies heavily on the dialogue and for the opposing voices of Gere and Coogan to carry the narrative.
In the middle of the bickering brothers are their wives Claire (Laura Linney) and Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), who both act as the person who has to guide their husbands on the right path.
The brotherly feud is one layer of the story – Paul clearly being envious of his brother and won’t listen to anyone apart from the voice in his head – but as we get into the main course of the meal the real story is revealed and it centres around a horrible incident involving both families sons.
Through the clever use of flashbacks interspersed between each course of the meal, more of the real narrative is shown with the young boys getting themselves into trouble, being at the centre of a horrible crime which leaves the whole country shocked. The boys identities are unknown but this is what provokes the meeting of the two couples.
Set out like a play, The Dinner does a great job of building the tension on screen but also letting loose where it needs to – Hall’s character in particular really comes into her own in the third act, proving she isn’t just a trophy wife.
Despite all the clever play – and the ridiculous ingredients of the food – the kick of the film takes a long time to get to that. If you were watching this while having your dinner, your food would have gone cold waiting.
That’s not to take away from the fact that the film doesn’t do a good job of addressing some very serious issues – mental health, class and privilege are the heavy hitters – but the viewer is left feeling a trip to McDonald’s would have got the job done quicker.
Much like its subjects, The Dinner is an imperfect film, occasionally lurid and maudlin, a trifle overlong, but fascinating to watch.
The Dinner is out in cinemas now.
Dir: Oren Moverman
Prd: Dave Bishop, Eva Maria Daniels, Mike Goodridge, Leonid Lebedev,Angel Lopez and Olga Segura
Scr: Oren Moverman
Cast: Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall
Running Time: 120 mins