The Dinner starring Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall and Laura Linney starts out with a rather simple premise. Two very different brothers get together with their significant others for a very intimate dinner at a swanky restaurant. One brother Paul (Coogan) is not the type of guy you want to spend a dinner date with. He’s on edge constantly and won’t think twice to tell you how smart he is while putting you down in the process. Throw in some deep seeded mental issues and his wife Claire (Linney) has her hands full trying to keep this loose cannon under control during a night out. The other Lohman brother Stan (Gere) on the other side looks like the total package. He’s a congressman running for Governor with wealth and an attractive wife on his arm (Rebecca Hall). At first the story seems it’s going to revolve around two vastly different brothers and their opposite outlooks on life, but the film takes a mysterious turn leading The Dinner down a dark path.
Once the couples have been seated to a table of their liking, The Dinner begins to present itself as an intense character study about the lengths parents will go to protect their children. As the stages of the meal are being served, the audience slowly discovers that the children of this quartet have committed an action that could have long-lasting effects on their lives moving forward. The four adults must decide how to handle this situation, which threatens to tear apart their lives. The premise is an interesting one, but unfortunately The Dinner takes it times unraveling the mystery taking numerous flashbacks down memory lane to explain our players actions. The many side steps don’t alway lend to the story and serve more as a distraction to the audience who couldn’t care less about Civil War history.
The other issue with The Dinner is the likability of the characters involved who are trying to keep a lid on the powder keg of family drama. These privileged parents are rude, insensitive, selfish and oblivious to the questionable motives of their children. They are almost impossible at times to root for in their dilemma. Most of the time you’ll probably wish they get what’s coming to them even if you can relate to Lohmans’ instinct to protect their young from the horrors that could await them. The Dinner shows people can get very ugly when they are desperate, but that doesn’t translate into an engaging watch when you despise the egotistical attitudes presented on-screen.
The only saving grace in The Dinner is the performance of Steve Coogan as the mentally unstable Paul Lohman. Paul puts out a vibe that he’s ready to blow at any minute and Coogan does a heck of a job keeping the audience wondering when it will happen. Coogan also finds a way to make Paul a somewhat sympathetic figure even if you still wouldn’t want to spend an evening with him. The rest of the cast does their part creating these self-absorbed individuals, but Coogan stands out. It’s a shame to see such a strong showing from Steve Coogan wasted in The Dinner which turns out to be a slow and sloppy film with metaphors about war, strength and family that struggles to connect.
Overall, I give The Dinner 2.25 out of 4 stars.
Read all T.M.’s reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell
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