Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (3 stars)

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

Richard Gere continues his run of earnest indies under the stewardship of Joseph Cedar

The career of 67-year-old Richard Gere has taken a fascinating turn of late. Not for him the lure of Taken-style 'geriaction' franchises, oh no. Instead he's embracing age-appropriate roles in well-intentioned indies like Time Out of Mind (playing a homeless man) and The Benefactor (giving us a guilt-ridden philanthropist) and has presumably financed them with his game appearance in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Gere's latest picture, written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar, continues this thoughtful streak and affords the actor the opportunity to deliver one of his best performances to date.

Gere plays Norman Oppenheimer, a (fictional) wheeler-dealer or 'fixer' on the streets of New York, who networks among the city's power elite by exaggerating his connections and making false promises. Norman gets his big break when he wangles his way into the affections of Israeli deputy minister Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), only for his contact to become Prime Minister three years later. Thrust into the heart of Israeli-New York political relations, Norman suddenly finds himself having to make good on his earlier promises, which arouses the suspicion of embassy insider Alex (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

Permanently clad in a camel-hair overcoat and tweed cap, Gere's Norman is an intriguing character whose ulterior motives are never quite made clear – coming across variously as a fool, con man, or do-gooder. It's a captivating performance, not least because it forces us to ignore what Norman is saying and concentrate on what's going on under the surface, betrayed by the tiniest tics and gestures. In addition, there's strong work from a classy supporting cast that includes Hank Azaria (as a fellow hustler), Steve Buscemi (as a rabbi, no less) and the increasingly ubiquitous Dan Stevens as a desirable contact who keeps rejecting Norman's entreaties.

Though Norman is consistently fascinating to watch, the story is extremely dry and the seemingly never-ending flow of repetitive conversation eventually becomes exhausting, despite a number of neat directorial touches from Cedar, such as the imaginative staging of phone conversations. Ultimately, the film is best viewed as a character study, with Gere's finely honed work ensuring that Norman remains a character worth studying.

General release from Fri 9 Jun.

Norman

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • Israel/USA
  • 1h 57min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Joseph Cedar
  • Cast: Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Michael Sheen

Norman Oppenheimer (Gere) is a small time operator who befriends a young politician at a low point in his life. Three years later, when the politician becomes an influential world leader, Norman's life dramatically changes for better and worse. It is one of Gere's best performances to date. While Norman is consistently…

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