The Dinner

4.5 IMDb
10 February 2017 Release
Genres:Crime, Drama, Thriller
13 Votes

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Reluctantly, the caustic and eccentric former high-school teacher Paul Lohman prepares himself for the unbearable task of having dinner at a posh restaurant with his wife Claire, after an invitation by his older brother Stan who is running for Congressman and his second wife, Katelyn. As it was expected, soon, as the four sit uneasily chatting and bickering over a parade of absurdly expensive and intricate dishes, the tension will start bubbling up until Stan makes clear the reason for this gathering. Apparently, it concerns their sons who harassed an innocent homeless lady, and unfortunately, they got involved in a horrendous incident and committed a crime. What should the parents do? Should they be protective, covering up the dreadful incident for the sake of their sons' future or should they expose them to be rightfully punished? After all, she was only a nameless woman.

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Movie Comments

  1. jmechelle, 1 week ago
    This might have been one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Not only does the plot jump around trying to tie in dramatic twists, but the ending leaves you wonder what the hell just happened. The whole movie is boring and lacks actual depth. Whoever wrote this tried way too hard to write an award winning movie by being unique that they actually forgot to relate the 237930850 story lines. One person has a mental illness, there's a solid 5 minutes regarding the Civil War that ties into literally nothing, and in the end you have no idea what they actually decided to do with their kids, which is what the whole movie is suppose to be about. Just terrible. I've heard my 2 year old tell better stories.
  2. maurice yacowar, 1 week ago
    This film doesn't end. It just stops. As if in mid-sentence. It's like the abrupt end to The Sopranos, rejecting the reactionary and inane wrap-up to Breaking Bad.

    The open end is necessary because the moral, social and psychological issues the film sets in motion are too complex and too shifting to settle into any easy resolution.

    Richard Gere gets top billing as Stan Lohman, the congressman about to be elected governor. But his psychologically damaged younger brother Paul (Steve Coogan) has arguably the more central role and conveys the key line: "We make war for love."

    As a high school history teacher Paul teaches Gettysburg, the beginning of the end — (i) of the civil war, and (ii) of a society securely rooted in values and moral certainty. Of course the Civil War was fought for economics as much as anything else. But the soldiers thought they were fighting for conflicting loves: the mythologized glory of the Old South vs the valiant ideal of egalitarian freedom.

    Paul is a savage, it turns out, as we see in his two classrooms rants where his rage and cynicism overrun any academic decorum. As he early tells us, he prefers the heroic days of ancient Greece and Rome, the pagan energies, over the Dark Ages and ensuing silly niceties of modern times.

    That's why the two brothers and their families take this slugfest to the ultra-expensive chichi restaurant. The setting makes this another exploration of Civilization and its Discontents. As the two couples debate how to treat their sons' savagery the maitre d' recites the pedigree of each ingredient. This is an extensio ad absurdum of the refinements of civilization and the rewards of its privileged.

    Paul is uncomfortable there, in part because he can't afford it, he doesn't understand it, and he feels as excluded from this ritual as he felt from his mother's preference for Stan. If he seems sensible in disdaining the manners and the preciousness, he's ultimately just destructive and rude.

    Stan is easy in that precious milieu, gliding through the crowd of Washington Insiders. His slickness tempts us to dismiss him. But when he decides to abandon his career and bring his son to justice Stan represents civilization at its moral best.

    The brothers' different responses to the dinner cohere with their different responses to their sons' brutal and mindless murder of a homeless black woman, burning her alive in an ATM booth. To our surprise, the slick politico wants his son to face judgment. The total strategist suddenly places morality and principle above expediency. In contrast, his more cynical — and less capable of action — brother decides to preserve the sons' secret by setting out to kill Stan's adopted black son, Beau, who has decided to turn in the two boys.

    Both mothers fiercely try to protect the boys against Stan's eruption of morality. Claire (Laura Linley) tries to settle the matter without involving hubby Paul, arranging to pay off Beau for his silence. When he changes his mind, she orders Paul to "look after Beau" — a demand about as motherly as Lady Macbeth.

    Stan's wife Katelyn shares Claire's commitment to save the boys, even though they're only her step-sons. Hungry to save their sons the mothers demonize and wholly misrepresent their innocent victim. Despite this difference, both woman are the supportive roots of their husband's lives. The fierceness of maternal love bonds the women in contrast to their husbands' antagonism.

    Here the film seems most reflective of Trump's America. In the mothers insistence upon protecting their own family interests above all law and morality, they are Republicans at their most acceptable. Paul slips into their position, off his meds, too weak and confused to resist. But the moral hero is the politician Stan, who places conscience and justice ahead of his own and his family's interests. That's the liberal politician, an endangered species in Trump's America.

    Hence Stan's campaign for a bill to grant the mentally afflicted the same health coverage as the physically ill get. This echo of Obamacare — and slap at Trumpcare — also reflects on how Stan grew out of his own mother's madness, which persists in Paul. The figure we initially reject — the slick Stan, Washington Insider — turns out to hold the moral center. This film posits a liberal humanity against the Trump ethos.

    But it's not an easy choice. Which is the villain: the mother who will do anything to protect her son or the father who places justice and morality over this personal interests? The film ends before the three-day delay Stan grants his wife to try to change his mind. We don't know how that family's drama will end. Nor should we, given the complexities of the drama at the family, national and archetypal levels.

    But if we're responsible citizens we'll try to figure out what we would do in that position. It's not easy.
  3. tributarystu, 1 week ago
    Oren Moverman's latest movie is quite the challenge. It has difficult characters, discomforting dialogue, an intricate construction and spreads over two hours. Nobody can accuse The Dinner of being unambitious, but I would like to accuse it of being an ambitious mess. Thankfully, not an unbearable mess.

    Although Richard Gere (Stan) headlines, it's Steve Coogan (Paul), playing his brother, who appears to lead at the beginning. In an unexpected American accent, he narrates with misanthropic cynicism, as preparations for a dinner event are underway. The narration stops at some point and comes back randomly throughout the movie - just one of several small incoherences that make everything feel unusual. Stan and Paul's relationship is strained, at best, while their wives Kate (Rebecca Hall) and Claire (Laura Linney) act as mediators. Some dark matter seems to have brought them together at an elitist restaurant boasting culinary lushness; a matter which unfolds at a slow pace, interlaced with Stan fighting to pass a bill in congress, Paul's Gettysburg obsessions, their children's suspect affairs, past personal traumas, all across several courses of an impressive sounding meal.

    For a movie that desires to tackle the lofty theme of social divide, it starts out feeling very personal. As it progresses, it distances itself from Paul to focus on the bigger picture and gravitate around Stan. It's a difficult move to pull off, as some sense of alienation occurs in the viewer, who has to accept the deep flaws surfacing in the 'object of attachment'. I felt a bit stranded, which culminated in a subpar ending.

    But it wasn't a complete shipwreck, as Stan, alongside Kathey and Claire, managed to wrestle my attention. Indeed, wrestle is the right word, in what turns out to be a less than peaceful digestif. The whole preachiness of the last thirty minutes or so is borderline crass, yet engaging, in a visceral kind of way. It's a decent payout after ninety minutes of fluctuating intensity.

    Do the themes and motives really blend though? It's hard to find a 'red string' to carry you through, as Paul's Hobbesian worldview overlaps with discussions of mental illness, political maneuvering and familial discord. You get pushed into finding personal interpretations to allegorical content, which is fun and rewarding, yet the movie proves heavy- handed in framing its moral questions and imperatives. Next to its schizophrenic identity dilemma, this just works against itself in the final scenes.

    I really liked the intensity, the grotesque and obscene affluence entailed by the dinner scenes, even some of the almost derivative monologues. The interpretative freedom made some of the drearier moments worthwhile, but more cohesion and restraint would have transformed The Dinner into something quite special all around. In spite of the backlash it's being served, Oren Moverman's film is a worthwhile exploration into how messy holding yourself consistent socially and philosophically can be.
  4. Harsha Nikhil, 1 week ago
    As difficult a task as this may sound, one needs to watch this movie a second time in order to appreciate the relevance of most of the scenes that wear you out the first time around. Having watched this movie after dinner (get it?), I sat up all night replaying the scenes in my mind, trying to connect the dots in pursuit of some sense. And then it hit me! The Dinner is an intelligent (unsure if intentional) interlace of two seemingly disconnected sequence of scenes - scenes of the actual food served through the night, and the rest of the movie.

    The connect is hidden in plain sight throughout the movie. It is not until the desserts are served, that the movie reveals subtle hints of this connection - the scene of hot caramel making its way through the chocolate egg seemingly to reveal what's truly inside, in a way blends perfectly with the other sequence of scenes that starts to unfold the true personalities of the entire cast. At this point, looking back, one could start to somewhat relate the other courses of food to the scenes of the story that run in parallel - the "young" baby carrots with rosemary polished "black" olives (olives signifying victory and rosemary signifying memory) and the back story of the two boys picking on Beau when they were much younger, the consistency of various cheeses and the consistency of the characters at the dinner table, and so on. In fact, it is at this point in the movie that Katelyn dramatically reveals her subdued self when she refuses to eat the dessert. And interestingly, this is the only point in the movie when the two sets of scenes blend in just so briefly, when Katelyn's character is showcased not by some back story but by her choice of not wanting to eat the dessert. And this brings us to the crux of the movie - choice! The moral dilemma that intensifies towards the end of the movie revolves around the choices that the cast have made or wish to make. And these choices are based on their beliefs and desires. Paul chooses to throw the ball to avenge his wife's death because he feels that the shopkeeper had killed her by selling her cigarettes. Might this have rubbed off on Michael who chooses to believe that the old lady was at fault for not moving out of his way? Claire sees reason in calling it an accident and in finding fault with the old lady in order to save her son. Katelyn chooses not to support Stan, possibly for the sake of her adopted sons or may be to protect her own marital interests? Dylan believes that the dessert was so unique that it had to be eaten. Each character in the movie fights for the choices they make, based on what they believe is right. While some or us may feel that Stan is right in choosing to go public, some others may feel that it is more important to shield one's family from the mean and insignificant world. Great wars have been fought to back one's sense of righteousness and Gettysburg is highlighted in the movie to depict the fight for democracy.

    The movie is a subset of everyday moral dilemma. We all fight smaller wars everyday to defend our own morals and to justify our own actions. Kill animals for food or go vegan? Spend on ourselves or save for our children? Outsource IT jobs to lower costs or employee local talent and sell at a higher price? What choices have you made today?