The Dinner (2 stars)

The Dinner

Adaptation of a provocative morality tale that boasts a high-powered cast but loses sight of its premise

Herman Koch's 2009 bestseller The Dinner was a riveting read, a jagged, challenging morality tale exploring the clash between principles and self-interest, cynicism and hope, family and career. How far would you go to protect your privileged offspring? What could possibly prevent you from doing the right thing?

Oren Moverman's American adaptation is the third screen version to date. What once felt urgent and thought-provoking now feels alternately listless and overblown, stagy and contrived. Even a high-powered cast cannot save the day.

The dinner in question is a crucial gathering at the kind of destination restaurant where the server delights in recounting every last detail of what now lies on the plate. Slick congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) arrives in a cloud of self-importance with his second wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall). Their guests are Stan's caustic, misanthropic brother Paul (Steve Coogan), a school teacher, and his long-suffering wife Claire (Laura Linney). Whether everyone present knows it or not, the purpose of the evening is to decide how to respond to a heinous crime committed by their children.

It takes a very long time to cut to the chase. Moverman (Time Out of Mind, Rampart) allows all the tension to drain away with lengthy flashbacks and never-ending interruptions that require at least one member of the party to leave the dinner table. The structure alone makes for a frustrating film. Old grievances are voiced, resentment bubbles to the surface and the dinner turns into a form of soul-searching therapy that exposes many of the failings and flaws in these strained relationships. The question of what the children did and how they should all respond seems to diminish as the night unfolds, adding to the air of redundancy around a film that seems to have lost its way.

Selected release from Fri 8 Dec.

The Dinner

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 2h
  • 15
  • Directed by: Oren Moverman
  • Cast: Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall, Steve Coogan, Laura Linney
  • UK release: 8 December 2017

Stan (Gere), a congressman, arrives at a dinner with his second wife Katelyn (Hall), to meet his misanthropic brother Paul (Coogan) and his wife Claire (Linney). Listless and overblown adaptation of Herman Koch’s bestseller, with a frustrating flashback-heavy structure.