2 Hrs., 1 Min.
The Dinner June 13, 2018
n which we’re forced to dine with, and then convolutedly hear about the backgrounds of, nasty, middle-aged wasps we’d like to spit on somewhere north of two hours. In The Dinner, one of the more insufferable films of 2017, two couples — Stan and Katelyn and Paul and Claire (whom we wish were as fun as Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice) — come together for an agitated night of multi-coursed wining and dining to discuss what they’re going to do with their sons, who have, in their melodramatic angst, committed a violent crime they have yet to be identified for carrying out.
Walk into the theater and you might expect, like me, a deliciously draconic one-setting psychological drama, underpinned by a murderer’s row of talent playing the leads, to unfurl. (Richard Gere and Rebecca Hall are Stan and Katelyn; Steve Coogan and
Laura Linney are Paul and Claire.)
But lip-smacking or masterfully tense this movie isn’t. Poisonously written and directed by Oren Moverman, who apparently never got the memo that overindulging in cartoonish vitriol à la Neil LaBute circa 1998 isn't enough to make you a magisterial dark humorist, The Dinner is an exhausting feature length’s worth of crocodile tears and tiresome bleating, miserable and acrimonious.
I hated these characters. I hated having to listen to their unsympathetic bellyaching. And I hated sitting through Moverman’s nauseating, affected dialogue and clumsy scene setting. (There are more gratuitous, unnecessarily elaborate flashbacks in this movie than there are characters in a Robert Altman ensemble piece.)
Whether unlikability is the point — this is a morally grey, intentionally withering moralist parable that wonders just how far a parent would go to save their child, a contrarian could argue — isn’t so important: This movie is contemptuous of its audience. Everyone here is so drainingly monstrous (I especially couldn’t stand Coogan’s taxingly misanthropic, racist man-child, who regrettably gets the most screen time), the writing is so repellant. The movie doesn’t have a convincing reason to exist. I’m so tired of movies circling around the descendants of the Willy Lomans and Charles Foster Kanes of the world. D