MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Runtime: 117 minutes
Directed by: Joseph Cedar
Cast: Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Michael Sheen, Steve Buscemi, Josh Charles, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Hank Azaria, Harris Yulin
Richard Gere has wisely elongated his career by taking on more character parts than playing the romantic leading man. Those days are over as he matures into a handsome, white-haired character-star. The latest film for the still-attractive actor is that of Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer. The film is now known as simply Norman.
Writer-Director Joseph Cedar has created Norman, a man many of us may have known. He likes to connect people. He wants to “fix” people or situations, and in general be an opportunist who in the end benefits by it. Is this his real nature or is it some inexplicable quirk in his personality?
Norman is also an incurable name-dropper in his quest to make new friends. It’s his way of acquiring a prestige he may not have had by going though normal relationships. A New Yorker, Norman is a man naturally given to the gift of gab or “schmoozing.” Gere has picked up all the nuances of a native New York City dweller and conveys it well through his speech patterns. Raised in a Methodist home and now a Buddhist by choice, he perfectly captures the gestures of a mature Jewish man of his body language and his method of speaking. Norman offers to help everyone he meets. It all seems natural to Gere, and he turns in a marvelous character study. Known for many fine film performances, this is probably one of Gere’s best.
Norman accidentally meets Micha Eshel, a stranger from Israel (Lior Ashkenazi) on the street and strikes up a close friendship. Upon his return to Israel, Micha is elected Prime Minister. Norman has his private phone number, and the two become close. Norman sees this as an opportunity to “become somebody,” and milks the relationship for all he can. But is Norman really “somebody”? He gets in over his head in international politics.
Not even his rabbi (Steve Buscemi) can help save him from his exaggerations. There is a marvelous scene in which Norman is expelled from a dinner honoring the Israeli Prime Minister when the outraged host (Josh Charles in a terrific cameo) unceremoniously tosses Norman out on his ear for being a phony and a liar.
Essentially, Norman is a tragic figure, a victim of his own ego and sense of exaggerated worth. Gere makes you care about Norman, but in the end the audience realizes he is an unattractive character.
Photo Credits: Sony Pictures Classics