Tag Archives: Richard Gere

In the Name of the Son

Three Christs

by Hope Madden

“Three grown men who believe they are Jesus Christ—it’s almost comical,” reads Bradley Whitford’s Clyde, a Ypsilanti mental patient who happens to be one of those three men. There is something bittersweet and meta about his reading that particular line from Dr. Stone’s (Richard Gere) report on the experimental procedure the doctor is undertaking with his three chosen patients.

On its surface, Three Christs itself seems almost comical. Whitford, Walton Goggins and Peter Dinklage play real life patients institutionalized in Michigan in the 1960s, each of whom believed they were Jesus. Just below the surface is a sad, lonesome story of a medical system ill-equipped and unwilling to treat the individual, and of the peculiar, touching struggles of three souls lost within that system.

Director Jon Avnet, writing with Eric Nazarian, adapts social psychologist Milton Rokeach’s nonfiction book on his own study, “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.”

Whitford’s performance is fine, but he’s somewhat out of his league when compared to Dinklage and Goggins. Dinklage is the film’s heartbeat and he conveys something simultaneously vulnerable and superior in his behavior. He’s wonderful as always, but it’s Goggins who steals this film.

Walton Goggins continues to be an undervalued and under-recognized talent. He can play anything from comic relief to sadistic villainy to nuanced dramatic lead (check out his turn in Them That Follow for proof of the latter). Here the rage that roils barely beneath the surface speaks to the loneliness and pain of constantly misunderstanding and being misunderstood that has marked his character’s entire life.

Gere is the weakest spot in the film. He charms, and his rare scenes with Juliana Margulies, playing Stone’s wife Ruth, are vibrant and enjoyable. But in his responses to his patients and in his struggles against the system (mainly embodied by Stephen Root and Kevin Pollak), he falls back on headshakes, sighs and bitter chuckles.

Aside from two of the three Christs’ performances, Avent’s film looks good but lacks in focus, failing to hold together especially well. The point of the extraordinary treatment method is never very clear, nor is its progress. Stone’s arc is also weak, which again muddies the point of the film.

Three Christs misses more opportunities than it grabs, which is unfortunate because both Dinklage and especially Goggins deliver performances worth seeing.

Betting on the Right Horse

Norman (The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer)

by George Wolf

“What do you need? I’ll help you get it.”

When does Norman Oppenheimer ever sleep? He’s always there in that same coat and hat, stalking New York City for more people to connect, more circles to infiltrate, and more favors to curry.

But beyond mere social status, Norman (Richard Gere) wants to be a part of something that matters, and he thinks he’s finally found it after “betting on the right horse.” In Norman’s world, that means doing a favor for Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi-terrific), a struggling young politician, at precisely the right time.

It takes three years, but Norman’s long shot pays off when Eshel becomes Prime Minister of Israel. Suddenly, after a lifetime of exaggerating his influence and connectivity, Norman really does have a friend in a very high place.

People begin paying more attention to Norman, which isn’t always good news for his powerful friend.

Writer/director Joseph Cedar skillfully creates an utterly fascinating character who maneuvers through an equally intriguing web of politics, friendship and desperation. And Gere, as good as he’s ever been, makes it feel authentic.

Much as Bruce Dern dug deep into the lead role in Nebraska, Gere relishes his chance to flesh out a character as ripe as Norman Oppenheimer. He’s pushy, pathetic and often socially awkward, yet endearing in his tireless quest to seem worthwhile, both to others and himself.

It’s a performance that should not be forgotten come award season, and it anchors a smart, detailed film as compelling as any political thriller, yet as familiar as your last little white lie.

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 





Bon Appetit

The Dinner

by Hope Madden

Enduring a dinner party – in cinematic terms, it can lead to a cathartic catfight (Carnage), mass suicide (The Invitation) or an all out apocalypse (It’s a Disaster).

It would appear that having to remain civil through such a meal causes us, as a civilization, a lot of anxiety.

Writer/director Oren Moverman (Rampart, The Messenger) ignites that discomfort and then looks at it from all angles with his newest, The Dinner.

Richard Gere – that silver fox – is Stan Lohman. A politician with a congressional race on the line and an important bill currently up for a vote, he’s juggling a lot right now. So why stop everything to join his brother Paul (Steve Coogan), along with Paul’s wife Claire (Laura Linney) and his own wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) for a 5-star meal?

Well, it isn’t good news.

The restaurant of choice is beyond posh, its lushly appointed dining rooms and obscenely laden tables a fascinating surrounding for the drama unfolding. When Moverman remains with his primary foursome inside this restaurant, an involving and curiously repellant morality play unfolds.

Moverman has a particular talent – one that these veterans relish. He scripts characters who are rarely entirely what they appear at first blush, never go where you expect them to go, and somehow wind up being the same and yet remarkably different than what you’d imagined.

This kid of layered challenge can prove too much for many actors, but Hall, Coogan, Gere and especially Linney are custom made for such work. Indeed, in many respects these actors are superior to their material.

Linney and Hall suffer from underwritten characters, which is a shame because both find something primal under all their characters’ studied polish.

Gere is breezily at ease as the smooth politician, convincing himself and others of his genuineness as he works the room.

Coogan is the standout surprise, playing against his traditionally comedic type as the enigma in the middle of this conundrum.

Suffice it to say, the couples have a parental nightmare to contend with, and it’s when Moverman brings in flashback to enlighten the audience that his drama begins to lose its way. Mix in some additional flashbacks to illuminate Paul’s character, including an excruciating Civil War sequence (we get it – sibling rivalry – enough already!), and the slow film comes to a stand-still.

It’s a frustrating way to spend an evening, The Dinner, but not a waste of time. Every member of the cast has a moment of brilliance working with a script that also shines in fits and spurts.

Verdict-3-0-Stars





Love…Exciting and (Not So) New

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

by George Wolf

The efforts of a talented, veteran cast, coupled with a refreshing attitude toward the love lives of senior citizens, enabled The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to rise above a tendency for silly contrivance.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel can’t quite measure up.

Director John Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker return, along with most of the original cast, for a trip back to India where things are busy at the eccentric hotel which caters to “the elderly and beautiful.”

Hotel proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) and girlfriend Sunaina (Tina Desai) are planning their wedding, but Sunny is distracted by business. He wants to expand, and has reached out to a U.S. firm for financial backing. When American “writer” Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) checks in to the hotel, Sonny is convinced he’s actually a spy sent by the prospective business partners.

Guy has barely gotten his room key before Madge (Celia Imrie) has the hots for him, he has his eye on Sonny’s mom (Lillette Dubey), Sonny is jealous of Sunaina’s childhood friend “Kush” (Shazad Latif), and Norman (Ronald Pickup) is afraid he accidentally took out a hit on his girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle). Plus, Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Evelyn (Judi Dench) still haven’t gotten together!

Maybe Captain Stubing can talk some sense into everyone!

It doesn’t take long to realize how much this installment misses the dear departed Graham, as played by Tom Wilkinson. Beyond Wilkinson’s immeasurable talent, Graham’s thoughtful storyline grounded part one in a graceful humanity that the sequel sorely needs. Gere is a fine addition for sheer star power, but his character only serves as a means to add more empty conflict to all the sit-comery.

It’s too bad, because even with Wilkinson gone, this cast features a vast wealth of talent that can instantly improve most any flailing script. The odd man out again is Patel, whose exaggerated histrionics serve as an annoying distraction from his sublime co-stars.

Despite a few charming moments, this sequel is overlong, overdone, and easily Second Best.

 

Verdict-2-5-Stars