The Dinner

Zero Stars


05 May 2017| No Comments on The Dinner     by Sean Chavel


We live in a time where I should be grateful for any sophisticated adult-themed film to come my way, and yet, the worst that could happen, I have stumbled upon a horrid pseudo-intellectual work. The Dinner is a rare case where its four principle actors – Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall, Steve Coogan and Laura Linney – have showed up to perform their best as upper class “nobles,” and yet the film they are occupying is rubbish at best and contemptible at worst, which falls completely not on them but on the director.

At a high a priced swanky restaurant as any person in this country could find (the waiters summarize rarefied ingredients for you), two couples who share a bloodline show up with a hold-your-breath agenda for the evening. Brace yourself for the film to dodge the issues for its opening forty-four minutes until it just briefly skirts the dilemma at its core. Then picks up again, only much later.

Gere is a congressman who is running for governor but now finds himself in a situation where he might have to cover-up his embarrassing family problem if he wishes to continue his political career. Coogan is actually his brother, a former history teacher who yelps, “Wake up, s***heads,” to his students in class even though his students actually appear to be a very mature bunch. He rages on how much he hates the laziness of students, the lack of interest history has on our generation, and so on. He is a bellicose teacher with nothing but a nattering for all matters large and small, subject to whine like a baby if others don’t share his views, a self-projected loser who has become that way only because the world around him has contrived it for him. My impression gathered immediately that this character isn’t remotely a believable human being, which is unfortunate because I am usually excited for Coogan to be in any movie.

The film jumps around in flashbacks and in forwards, like constantly. So little happens at the dinner for a great length of time, that when the film cut to a scene with Gere and Coogan in the car, I honestly didn’t know for a couple of minutes whether it was a flashback or a flash forward in time beyond the central dinner of the film. Within time, I figured out it’s another flashback.

The awfulness of “The Dinner” is one of those that has to be seen to be believed, although that would be an act of masochism that only the most extreme devout cineastes should commit themselves to. I believe it is best that I provide a warning spoiler alert for those committed to suffer and learn on their own, but for the rest of you that just want to know… SPOILER ALERT: Caught on not just one video, but two recorded videos (one subsequently making it as a blurred entry on YouTube), Coogan’s son is responsible for coming up on a sickly homeless person at an ATM booth, flicking garbage and lighted matches at the victim, until the booth itself goes up in flames. Gere’s son is an accomplice.

The couples’ have finished their main course when they get into the most heated part of the argument – should they come out in the open and let their sons’ be punished, or should they use their power and influence to cover-up the crime?, i.e., buy others off – the actors get their own fireworks showcase in a scene like this. The only problem for me is, the verbal spiels are so exacerbated that for a few minutes stretch I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND what arguments the characters were individually making. I gathered up the point, when the characters starting talking more literal, that some parents have morality and some don’t, as well as figured out that even a mother and father have divergent takes on morality. Isn’t it so clever, the film must think, that we thought that the mother would be the moral one and she’s not, and that even a governor-in-running would shrink into acquiescence due to his assertive, ballbuster wife?

The film’s director is Oren Moverman, who made his remarkable debut with “The Messenger” in 2009, then made “Rampart” in 2011 which featured Woody Harrelson in what I still believe is the best performance of the decade. His next film would be the well-intentioned bore “Time Out of Mind” with Gere from two years ago, and now, adapting a Netherlands novel by Herman Koch (who skipped the after party at the premiere and later voiced his disdain for this film), Moverman has gone full boring artist. I think it is obvious Moverman doesn’t want to graduate into Hollywood, that he’d rather stick to his outsider indie film niche and make adult themed films. That’s admirable, but it’s going to be only gratifying, for both him and us, once he returns to telling cohesive stories with chaptered story beats.

“The Dinner” has an aggravating closing scene in front of Gere’s house that discloses something of a cockamamie revelation: that Gere’s real son is a different person from who we thought. The idea is, Gere’s son is less of an accomplice to us than first presumed. That’s a message about owning more responsibility than necessary, but the story doesn’t exactly exonerate ones from the displayed hypocrisy (beating up your brother over the divide of the issue is hypocrisy to me). We need smart movies more than ever to offset the superhero glut. Yet if we’re talking about movies that provide sensorial torture, then “The Dinner” is unlikely unbeatable for the worst film of 2017.

120 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966); “Hurlyburly” (1998); “Carnage” (2011); “August: Osage County” (2013).

Dinner_Worst Movie - 2017

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


There are No Comments about this post

Add Yours!

You must be logged in to post a comment.