Oren Moverman's last few films featured Woody Harrelson ("Rampart" and "The Messenger") and Richard Gere ("I'm Not There" and "Time Out of Mind"). His films are generally dialogue heavy relying on actor performances to keep them moving. His latest film is no different although I half expected to see Harrelson and Gere cast together.


Instead Moverman cast Steve Coogan opposite Gere in this adaptation of the Herman Koch best seller about family, politics, crime, and insanity. The story is a complex weave of subjects which the cast must deliver heavily nuanced performances to keep the audience engaged and involved. Coogan carries the burden of engaging the audience the most as Paul Lohman the younger mentally disturbed brother of Stan Lohman (Gere) a Congressman in the middle of a political dogfight and a campaign bid for governor of their state.


Laura Linney plays Paul's wife who has grown accustomed to his often sudden irrational, paranoid behavior. He is a handful as we learn in the opening scene as they prepare to meet for dinner with Stan and his wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall).

Initially, Paul is dead set about not going to this elitist restaurant, but relents if only so that he can demonstrate how much he hates the snobbery. Of course, they arrive at the restaurant first and he sits an pouts about everything.


Stan and Katelyn arrive in a fluster with his campaign boss Nina (Adepero Oduye) who would rather him not waste time with this dinner with his brother. The have campaign to run as well as rounding up votes for a bill he has proposed that is coming up short of passing. She seems to have a good sense of what the evening has in store.


The dinner opens with maitre'd Dylan (Michael Chernus) jumping through hoops to satisfy the grouping, even going so far as to move them to a quieter, private room. The restaurant staff is well orchestrated like any premium five star eatery; each course being carefully described by Dylan. During his descriptions he must withstand constant harsh criticisms from Paul.


The first half of the evening is filled with the group bickering. Seemingly random bickering until we find out there is a purpose for the meeting. Through a series of flashback, we find out that Paul's sons Michael (Charlie Plummer) and Rick (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) have committed a heinous crime while Stan's adopted son Beau (Miles Harvey) looked on. If the press finds out the Lohmans - particularly Stan - will be skewered by the press and the boys will go to prison.


Everything stands to be exposed including the severity of Paul's insanity which Claire and Stan are willing to try to cover. Katelyn is upset because she hitched her wagon to Stan's political career as his trophy wife and can see everything going up in flames.


It becomes a classic case of doing the right thing and trying to justify NOT doing anything and hoping it will all go away; some they find out that Beau is not willing to do. The big wrench in the machine, no matter which direction they take, is Paul's mental state.


The story gets a little bumpy, but the performances will keep you engrossed. This is a story that could play out anywhere during current times.


"The Dinner" is a totally engaging acting clinic with Steve Coogan and Richard Gere playing polar opposites tasked with making a choice between family unity and doing the right thing.   -- GEOFF BURTON