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Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer DVD Review

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (2017) movie poster Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer

Theatrical Release: April1 4, 2017 / Running Time: 118 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Joseph Cedar

Cast: Richard Gere (Norman Oppenheimer), Lior Ashkenazi (Micha Eshel), Hank Azaria (Srul Katz), Steve Buscemi (Rabbi Blumenthal), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Alexandra "Alex" Green), Michael Sheen (Philip Cohen), Dan Stevens (Bill Kavish), Yehuda Almagor (Duby), Isaach De Bankole (Jacques), Josh Charles (Arthur Taub), Dov Glickman (Ron Maor), Neta Riskin (Hanna), Tali Sharon (Naomi Eshel), Scott Shephard (Bruce Schwartz), Harris Yulin (Jo Wilf), Cantor Azi Schwartz (Cantor), Ann Dowd (Carol Raskin), Jonathan Avigdori (Lior Keshet), Caitlin O'Connell (Sister Agnes), Miranda Bailey (Taub's Assistant), Andrew Polk (Marty Schiff)

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Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer is the fifth narrative feature film written and directed by Joseph Cedar. You're completely forgiven
if you missed the previous four. Released from 2000 to 2011, they were Hebrew language films produced in Israel, where Cedar and his family moved from New York when he was six. Norman returns Cedar to his birthplace and finds him working in the English language for the first time in his career.

Richard Gere fills the titular lead role of Norman Oppenheim, a New Yorker whose business card identifies him as the founder and CEO of a strategy company bearing his name. Norman later describes himself as a consultant. Our first impressions establish him as more of a schmoozer and a schmuck. Norman is consistently trying to make connections and garner influence. In the first of the film's four acts, he tracks down Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), a charismatic and photogenic Israeli politician whom he's just seen make a public appearance in New York. Norman sweet talks the deputy prime minister to a fancy clothing store, where he insists on buying him a $1,200 pair of shoes.

It's a purchase that pays off. Even though Micha stands Norman up at a dinner party hosted by a wealthy businessman (Josh Charles), getting him embarrassingly ejected from the private gathering, three years later Micha is elected Israel's Prime Minister and Norman has a connection that gives him great influence. Alas, after the glow of recognition fades, Norman finds himself increasingly unable to get in touch with the Prime Minister, his assistants dodging most of his calls. There is fallout from that as Norman is in the midst of orchestrating a bailout of his temple that hedges on a $7 million anonymous donation that may or may not truly exist.

In "Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer", Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) befriends an Israeli politician (Lior Ashkenazi) and buys him an expensive pair of shoes, a purchase with major consequences.

Norman lives up to its very long subtitle with a character study of a man whose only joy in life seems to be making valuable connections and wielding influence. The nut-allergic, earbud-wearing Oppenheimer gives Gere the juiciest lead role he's had since playing Clifford Irving in 2007's underseen The Hoax. Clinging to his leading man status in his late 60s,
Gere is willing to act and not merely coast as a suave guy Julia Roberts can't resist. He's surrounded by talented character actors like Steve Buscemi, Michael Sheen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Hank Azaria. The most interesting supporting turn is from Israel's Ashkenazi, who has worked with the director before but should be equally unknown to Western audiences. Nonetheless, it's Gere's show and he commits to playing this somewhat sympathetic cipher with his hair flattened down and his ears pushed out.

The only person who upstages Gere is Cedar himself, who makes Norman an unexpectedly stylish drama full of flair, with some real creative split screens and an inspired dreamlike central sequence. I had never even heard of Cedar before seeing this movie and I don't think many of my fellow film critics would chastise me for that. But his American debut announces him as a visual talent, who manages to prevent a very talkative, Woody Allen-esque drama from feeling stagnant and confined.

Gere has never received an Academy Award nomination, not even for his Golden Globe-winning turn in Best Picture winner Chicago. Norman won't end that streak of futility, nor will it even be a performance on many people's radars. But it received good reviews in limited release last spring as it grossed $3.8 million, a sum that passes for respectable today among indie films with triple-digit theater counts.

On Tuesday, three months after opening on the coasts, Norman hits DVD and Blu-ray, the latter as an Amazon-exclusive made-to-order disc, which is why we only review the former here.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Chinese Traditional, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $25.99
Black Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray ($30.99 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Judged against new films that are typically released on Blu-ray, Norman naturally falls short in DVD's standard resolution. But judged by the medium, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is, like most Sony DVDs, just fine. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is sufficient, too. One area that is lacking is in the player-generated subtitles that translate the somewhat recurring Hebrew dialogue, which are blocky, like DVD subtitles are and Blu-ray ones aren't.

Hank Azaria discusses the film on the red carpet of its premiere. Writer-director Joseph Cedar and leading man Richard Gere discuss "Norman" with Deadline's Peter Hammond.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The DVD's extras begin with "Making Connections:

Norman on the Red Carpet" (4:37), a short featurette which gathers Gere and director Cedar's press sitdown with footage from the film's premiere attended by much of the cast.

"An Evening with Norman" (22:50) lets Deadline Hollywood's Peter Hammond sitting down and talking with Gere and Cedar. They talk about how the movie is marketed in Israel, real-life Normans, the film's long journey to get made, and filming in New York and Jerusalem.

Though unmentioned on the case, Norman's theatrical trailer (2:08) is kindly included here.

Finally, "Previews" repeats the disc-opening trailers for The Comedian, The Hollars, Maudie, The Meddler, Maggie's Plan, and Paris Can Wait.

The static menus are adapted from the cover art and publicity stills, with the main screen accompanied by score.

With no digital copy offered, no inserts accompany the plain silver disc inside the unslipcovered, standard black keepcase.

Richard Gere stretches himself (and his ears) to play Norman Oppenheimer, a New York-based consultant who's constantly plotting to make connections.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Norman compels on the strengths of some creative style and good Richard Gere performance. The film's content is not for the masses, hence the modest theater count, but those who are interested should find something to like about this indie drama. Give it a rental.

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Reviewed July 8, 2017.



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