Review / ‘The Dinner’ (MA) ****

WRITER/director Oren Moverman’s adaptation of a novel by Herman Koch is a satire of upper-middle class America.

Two brothers. Paul (Steve Coogan) teaching humanities at a high school. Congressman Stan (Richard Gere), planning to announce tomorrow that he is running for state governor.

Their wives. Claire (Laura Linney), domestically supportive of Paul and mother of their adolescent son Michael (Charlie Plummer) whose birth was so painful that she determined never to have another. Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), Stan’s trophy wife, childless, a steely interior encased in a complaisant surface.

The film moves in and out of a family dinner at an up-market restaurant. As if by right, Stan dominates the table talk even when he rises to confer with his PA (Adepero Oduye) outside. The drama’s time and place move hither and yon. An ATM site where Michael abuses an indigent black woman camping there. The Gettysburg Memorial. Stan’s previous marriage to his children’s mother Barbara (Chloe Sevigny). The black lady trying to sleep if only Michael would stop abusing her. And finally, a virtuoso blast from Claire, defending Michael’s behaviour while totally ignorant about its monstrous underlying truth.

These dramatic elements embrace enough about contemporary America to be disturbing, but the film’s best fun is head waiter Heinz, wonderfully performed by Michael Chernus, describing the anatomy of every dish in bounteous detail. He’s not being annoying by accident. As the film proceeds, he develops from a pretentious irritation to getting even on a grand scale. Lampooning as an art. Good stuff, cleverly delivered.

At Palace Electric and Dendy

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