The Dinner (2017)
Critic Consensus: The Dinner's strong ensemble isn't enough to overcome a screenplay that merely skims the surface of its source material's wit and insight.
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as Stan Lohman
as Claire Lohman
as Paul Lohman
as Katelyn Lohman
as Dylan Heinz, Maitre d'
as Michael Lohman
as Rick Lohman
as Beau Lohman
as Moriah (Homeless Woman)
as Eight Year Old Michael
as Eight Year Old Rick
as Gettysburg Narrator
as Kamryn Velez
as Stephen Whitney
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Critic Reviews for The Dinner
As focus lurches distractingly from the heated dinner-table debate to a zigzagging network of flashbacks, momentum fatally stalls, while the illustrious ensemble of actors at the film's center never quite gets cooking.
Despite the skill of the cast, you spend much of the film trying to decide which of its characters most deserves to choke on an appetizer.
The Dinner is two hours of unrelenting nastiness, steeped in the trappings of extreme wealth and the toxic privilege it affords.
Although Moverman's cinematic style can be physically uncomfortable to experience, it's impossible to turn away from the quartet of incredible performances.
Potential game-changing touch: this time, it's the politician and not his middle-class brother who is in favor of exposing the truth.
Coogan's dramatic performance is unmatched: raw, intense, satiric, self-immolating. There is not a moment when he is not being frighteningly honest, searching out the mortifying nooks and crannies of his often petty character and exposing them.
Audience Reviews for The Dinner
SPIT IT OUT - My Review of THE DINNER (1/2 Star) Writer/director Oren Moverman knows better, right? I mean, I enjoyed THE MESSENGER and RAMPART, both providing Woody Harrelson with two of his best performances, but his latest, THE DINNER is, to put it mildly, a steaming stinker. Of course, the big dumb studio comedies would normally fill that bill, but when you assemble so much talent, it's that much more disappointing when it fails this miserably. I can honestly say that despite some very good performances, THE DINNER is easily the most excruciating moviegoing experience I've had in years. Structured inexplicably around the multiple courses of a dinner at a fancy restaurant, the film gathers 2 brothers (Richard Gere, a gubernatorial candidate, and Steve Coogan, a high school history teacher) and their respective wives (Rebecca Hall and Laura Linney) as they hope to discuss a personal family matter. Trouble is, they're constantly interrupted by either Gere's chief of staff (a strong Adepero Oduye, PARIAH, 12 YEARS A SLAVE), who provides a ridiculous mcguffin regarding an impending vote on a bill, or by the wait staff who incessantly chime in about each dish, or by Coogan's endless mental health issues. Did I say endless? It literally takes almost an entire hour and a half for us to learn about the main issue because the above-mentioned interruptions just keep coming. When it's finally introduced, our main characters have a heated conversation about it in attempt to come to an agreement. Without spoiling the topic, it amounts to one of those moral quandaries where there's no good answer. It's all told from the point of view of the slowly unraveling Coogan, who in the book by Herman Koch, served as an unreliable narrator. In trying to translate his mental state to the screen, the film ends up being more frustrating than mysterious. Despite this, our five leads do well, with the great Hall beautifully building steam until her character snaps. Linney and Gere, with this being their 3rd collaboration on film, don't interact that much, but they both have solid grasps on their prickly characters. Coogan gets the meatiest part as an unstable, paranoid, angry, disappointed man who resents his successful brother and how his mental status is addressed by everyone around him. There's a compelling movie to be made about his character, but this isn't it. You just want to scream at the screen for everyone to just get on with it. It's basically a short film that's been heavily padded to its nearly two hour running time. The film takes a somewhat psychedelic detour to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, so that we can learn about the death toll of the Civil War. It fits because of the violent themes at play, but it's a jarring tonal shift that should have been cut. The whole thing ends on an ambiguous note clearly intended to start some water cooler conversation. Mine went something like this: ME: Can you believe that ending? BUDDY #1: It's the director's final "fuck you" to the audience. BUDDY #2: Nothing gets resolved. ME: I guess we're supposed to think that violence begets more violence. BUDDY #1: Something we already knew going in. ME: Can you believe a movie called THE DINNER barely showed off the food? BUDDY #2 (to the waiter at Canter's): I'll have the scrambled eggs. BUDDY #1: I'll have the Denver Omelette. ME: I'll have the Brooklyn Avenue with potato salad. I guess Hollywood does have a lesson to teach us after all. No, not that stuff about violence. It's that no matter how unappetizing the film turns out to be, you're still gonna wanna eat afterwards.
Even though this film's narrative left a sour taste in my mouth, the actors notably Coogan redeemed The Dinner. A lengthy middle section focusing in on the Gettysburg battle brought the film to a screeching halt. The sibling rivalry between Gere and Coogan reminded me of The Smothers Brothers "Mom always like you best" skit. (5-13-17)
What an odd movie. With better editing and ditching the frenetic, obnoxious soundtrack it could have been an effective anti-comedy or an intimate family drama, but the film is ultimately mired in its pacing and tonal imbalance. Steve Coogan is no stranger to playing the role of a mentally unstable, middle-aged academician, but this movie turns that character up to eleven. He ultimately becomes the through line for us to experience this five course meal served with copious flashbacks. To begin with, Coogan is immediately unlikable, then you find out in agonizing detail why he is that way and how much worse he can become. Sometimes giggling is unavoidable, seeing him as Alan Partridge, and sometimes he is so deeply unsettling, making this a compelling and multifaceted performance. He is accompanied in some great moments by Richard Gere, Laura Linney, and Rebecca Hall. Their painfully awkward dinner is constantly interrupted by wait staff, their children, and Gere's political team, and the actual reason as to why they are at dinner slowly, slowly unfolds. Tension builds and dissipates as out-of-left-field tonal shifts swerve by, confusing one into thinking that all of it might be intentional. However, the only intentionality I can glean is that the film is purposely frustrating. Sometimes it touches on a psychedelic brand of frustration that I don't think I've ever seen used like this before. I was fascinated and captivated by it's unpredictability, a bit like watching a homeless person being incinerated, but I can't in good conscience recommend this to anyone. Watch it for Coogan, the brief food porn, and the WTF factor, otherwise check out the other two film adaptations of Herman Koch's novel "Het diner".
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