It’s a high drama between salad and entree in filmmaker Oren Moverman’s The Dinner.
Set in the kind of restaurant that you have to kill someone to get a reservation, two couples meet for great food and even better conversation. And none of them will ever be the same by the time the check arrives.
Richard Gere and Laura Linney head the cast as two alpha characters in roles that are a standard part of each actor’s standard repertoire. Think Gere in Arbitrage and Linney in Mystic River.
Gere is a popular Congressman on the eve of his run for the governorship. Linney’s husband is Gere’s younger brother, played with nuance by Steve Coogan, a former teacher teetering mental illness.
Rounding out the dinner party is Gere’s scheming trophy wife, played by Rebecca Hall.
The film’s plot revolves around the two couples’ respective sons who are best friends, and a fateful incident that has recently occurred.
The story is revealed in both conversation during the dinner and punctuated with flashbacks.
With the stage is set for melodrama, the film becomes a take-no-prisoners battle of wills in the tradition of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
Gere and Linney chew up the scenery as family secrets are served up between courses. But that’s no criticism. It’s delicious seeing these two seasoned actors at the their top of their game.
With a psychological plot that is half-baked, the movie becomes a vehicle for their bravura depictions of a politician wrestling with ambition and morality, and a mother lioness who will do anything to protect her cub.
The story wraps with a twist that is ultimately unsatisfying. Still, it’s a movie worth indulging for the moving performances director Moverman extracts from his stellar cast.