Review / ‘Norman’ (M) ***and a half

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ANAPHYLAXIS, the most severe form of allergic reaction, is potentially life threatening and must be treated as a medical emergency. Epinephrine can reverse the symptoms within minutes.

That’s all today from Dr Mac. But anaphylaxis neatly bookends writer/director Joseph Cedar’s delightful New York/Israeli co-production, telling about the life and times of Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere). Don’t offer Norman a nut. It could kill him unless he immediately shoots up on his epinephrine pen. But before that happens, we’d like to learn more about this charming, insistent arranger of meetings between important people, whose office is a leather shoulder bag and cellphone buds almost never out of his ears, who walks rather than takes a bus or cab, dines on pickled herring on a cracker and for most of the film wears a handsome greatcoat over a well-cut suit and a cloth cap.

In the first of the screenplay’s four acts, Norman gatecrashes a conference, hijacks visiting Israeli deputy infrastructure minister Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) and buys him a $1100+ pair of Lanvin shoes, thereby providing the film with a leitmotif and the basis for an ongoing friendship.

Three years later, Micha is President of Israel and Norman has his cellphone number. An Israeli natural gas project is in the offing. Norman, still walking everywhere and wearing that signature overcoat, is trying to raise funds to rebuild the synagogue led by Rabbi Blumenthal (Steve Buscemi). Field operative Alex (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is on Norman’s case. There is talk of conspiracy and corruption. Micha’s political future is at risk.

“Norman” is New York-born Joseph Cedar’s first English-language film. It has much going for it. Its political undertones are never far from the surface. Its growing tensions unfold deftly. The performances are top quality. Its whimsical observations are fun.

 At Palace Electric and Capitol 6

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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