PLOT- Based on Dutch author Herman Koch's best-selling novel of the same name, The Dinner, is about two couples who meet at an exclusive restaurant to discuss a heinous crime involving their sons. Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) is a charismatic congressman, who stands to lose everything, if the truth about his son's crime is revealed. His young wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) has given her life over to both supporting her husband's political career and bonding with her two step-sons. Stan's brother, Paul (Steve Coogan) is a mentally unstable professor, who holds a long-standing grudge against his older brother, jealous of attention that Stan had received as a child, and of Stan's success as an adult. Paul's wife, Claire (Laura Linney) is a lung cancer survivor and although her demeanor is sweet, she may be hiding the biggest secret.
LIKE- I read Koch's novel a few years ago, while on the worst family vacation ever. It's a brilliant novel, suspenseful and surprising. I was very excited for the film adaptation. The American film, is actually the third film adaptation of The Dinner. There is also a Dutch, and an Italian adaptation of Koch's novel.
Apparently, Koch was not pleased with the American version. The American version is "very American," even having scenes that reference the Civil War. I was surprised by this inclusion, but perhaps because I'm an American, I thought it totally worked. I liked that they made this version unique to its setting and characters. Surely, the story will have a different sensibility depending on the culture in which it's set?
The story primarily takes place in a very upscale, expensive restaurant, and as such, the presentation of the food is art. It's lavish and beautiful. It also sets the dynamic for the two warring brothers, especially since Paul is resentful of Stan's success and wealth. The tension is high before the couples even discuss their sons. The tension never drops during the course of the film; it slowly increases until the ending credits.
The acting is fabulous. Really, a truly great ensemble piece. The casting is pitch-perfect and these skilled actors have been given rich characters with enormous stakes. I had forgotten much of the plot, so it was joy to be surprised by the twists and turns in the story. Only three other people were in the audience ( a money maker, this is not), yet there were audible gasps at some of the more shocking aspects of the story.
Seeing this particular film in Portland was a unique experience. SPOILER ALERT -The teenage sons of the main characters, have attacked and killed a homeless woman.
I live in downtown Portland, where we have an enormous homeless population. I've lived in cities, but never in a place where I've seen homelessness on a daily basis. This change in environment and the problems of my new city, have definitely had an affected on me, and I think it made this particular aspect of The Dinner, even more personal. When I walked home from the cinema, a five block walk, I passed about twenty or so homeless people. The film doesn't so much speak to the homeless crisis, as it does to the callous nature in which the homeless are treated, as if they are less than human.
I liked the sudden and startling cut at the end. It reminded me of The Sopranos- so either you'll think it's brilliant or you'll hate it. It's jarring.
DISLIKE- Nothing. Although it's been awhile since I've read the novel, I think that the film is equally as good. The performances really make the film version pop.
RECOMMEND- Yes! If you like character driven, dialogue heavy films with surprising twists, watch The Dinner.