You are invited to “The Dinner” for a disturbing, thought-provoking two hours.
Don’t let Richard Gere’s appearance fool you: This is far from a “PG-13”-rated romantic dramedy. It’s a cruel movie in a lot of ways, with characters who often are cruel to each other. It’s challenging, and should not be mistaken for light entertainment.
At first, you’ll be confused — at least, I was — by the narration and exactly what is going on in this third incarnation of Herman Koch’s 2009 book about two estranged brothers and their families. Stan Lohman (Gere) is running for governor. He is accompanied to said dinner by his younger wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall, “The Town.”)
The story is told more often from the perspective of the other sibling, Paul (Steve Coogan) who unwillingly goes to the dinner with his wife Claire (Laura Linney). Paul, a former public-school teacher who constantly ponders the Civil War, hates everything about the posh restaurant. He seems to loathe his wealthy, influential brother even more.
Each course is served with a title, and with each course more layers of the complex relationship between the brothers and their families is revealed. Through flashbacks we meet Barbara (Chloe Sevigny), Stan’s first wife. We learn about Paul’s mental struggle and the way the two brothers’ children have grown up.
I like the way the brothers throw verbal darts at each other until the verbal sparring transitions into a dialogue of attacks.
It takes quite some time before we realize why the brothers have met to have a discussion, and exactly what the discussion entails. Without giving too much away, the movie’s focus truly is on what lengths people will go for the sake of their children.
Michael (Charlie Plummer) is the son of Paul and Claire, while Stan’s sons are Rick (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) and Beau (Miles J. Harvey). All have played a part in an incident that becomes more clear as the show nears its finale.
Audiences who like their films straightforward may find this takes too much of a toll on their patience, particularly with the way it jumps back and forth in time and its ambiguous ending. I grew weary of various people storming away from the table, for example, as a gimmick to allow certain characters to speak in private.
Still, I enjoyed watching the solid performances. And I was horrified by what ultimately transpires, although I found it quite believable.
It’s a real think piece – a good conversation-starter for after the movie when you ask your friends “What would you have done?” But it’s not an easy conversation to have, or an easy movie to watch.