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The Dinner: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The Dinner (2017) movie poster The Dinner

Theatrical Release: May 5, 2017 / Running Time: 120 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Oren Moverman / Writers: Herman Koch (novel); Oren Moverman (screenplay)

Cast: Richard Gere (Stan Lohman), Laura Linney (Claire Lohman), Steve Coogan (Paul Lohman), Rebecca Hall (Katelyn Lohman), Adepero Oduye (Nina), Michael Chernus (Dylan Heinz), Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (Rick Lohman), Charlie Plummer (Michael Lohman), Miles J. Harvey (Beau Lohman), Joel Bissonnette (Antonio), Chloλ Sevigny (Barbara Lohman)

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You expect a movie called The Dinner to join the tradition of films centered on individual meals, a class that includes My Dinner with Andre, Babette's Feast, Dinner for Schmucks,
and the recent Beatriz at Dinner. The Dinner meets those expectations but also subverts them because this is kind of a bonkers movie. The third feature film in as many languages based on Herman Koch's 2009 Dutch novel, this American version is adapted and directed by Oren Moverman (The Messenger, Rampart) and stars four distinguished and fairly household name actors.

Former high school history professor Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan) is reluctant to go, even though his wife Claire (Laura Linney) points out the classy restaurant ordinarily has a 3-month waiting list to get reservations. That list has been circumvented by congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), Paul's older brother who is running for governor. Stan and his "trophy wife" Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) meet the other Lohmans and soon thereafter request to be moved to a more secluded table. These accommodations are met as the restaurant and its host (Michael Chernus) do everything they can to keep the gubernatorial candidate happy.

Two wealthy brothers (Steve Coogan and Richard Gere) and their wives get a fancy yet tense meal in "The Dinner."

But the night is not all about food, folks, and fun. The two married couples have some serious matters to discuss, as has been hinted at by scenes involving their children and an incident in a bank's ATM lobby. The three kids of the two families have gotten into some trouble and there could and should be severe consequences for all. But that only becomes clear about an hour in and even then, The Dinner continues to take its time to reveal just what has happened and what it means for these two related clans.

Chronologically, the film leaps around. Its focus wanders. Most often it is on Paul, whose opening voiceover monologue laments the fall of all things ancient and the rise of all modern things in their place. Seemingly obsessed with the Civil War's Battle of Gettysburg, which he hopes to write a book about, Paul is not a likable character, but he is the one who gets fleshed out the most. He treads that not so fine line between loving husband/conscientious father and self-serving sociopath. Though he is the one displaying utter condescension to every restaurant employee sending formalities his way, his brother and their wives do not do much to earn any sympathy from us.

The big issue is that these affluent people's kids have committed an unthinkable act and the dilemma for their parents to either protect them or have them pay the price feels like a no-brainer to viewers, especially those with no teenaged children of their own.

Thanks to a fine performance by Steve Coogan, Paul Lohman's mental breakdown is more interesting than the rest of what "The Dinner" serves up.

But The Dinner is off the wall. The moments it chooses to show us -- like an incident involving a basketball and a smoke shop window -- often do not make sense and their relationship to the rest of the movie only raises questions. Furthermore, it's not clear what is going on in Paul's mind, which seems to be failing him. At least Coogan compels with his complex performance, which is by far the best thing about the movie and better than it has any reason to be. Already proven comedically in his native UK,
Coogan has honed his dramatic chops in recent years, most visibly in the 2013 Best Picture nominee Philomena, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Adapted Screenplay. Though billed just third, Coogan has the most screentime by a wide margin and the richest character to occupy. One kind of wishes the character could just leave the fancy restaurant he's at and take us to a different world without these other characters and this unsavory central dilemma.

Critics were mixed and none too impressed by The Dinner, Moverman's fourth film as director and eleventh as screenwriter. But moviegoers downright hated the film. For proof of that, look no further than IMDb, where the film holds an absurdly low 4.5 out of 10 user rating. New movies rated that lowly are few and far between, most of them direct-to-video or made for TV fare. Among theatrical films with thousands of votes, only really hated movies like Rings and The Layover and voted-down-on-principle fare like Fifty Shades Darker are in the same league. The Dinner's low rating, which is echoed by a rare two-star rating on Amazon, seems especially condemning when you consider it was aimed at discerning arthouse audiences.

The widest release ever by young indie studio The Orchard, The Dinner grossed barely $1 million from 505 theaters where it opened the same day that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 officially kicked off the summer movie season. It recently hit DVD and Blu-ray from The Orchard's apparent new home video partner Lionsgate.

The Dinner: Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD ($19.98 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though presumably moderately budgeted, The Dinner looks like a big studio picture with its sleek lighting and vivid visuals, which the Blu-ray presents with nary a concern in its fine 1.85:1 presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is fairly low-key but perfectly effective at distributing music and atmosphere.

Laura Linney and writer-director Oren Moverman take a look at some guy's phone in this photo gallery still. The leading ladies of "The Dinner" (Rebecca Hall and Laura Linney) make an appearance on the film's desaturated Blu-ray menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's main bonus feature is an audio commentary by director-screenwriter Oren Moverman and actress Laura Linney.

Why her, when she has the least to do of any of the four leads? I don't know. I guess because she said yes and the others didn't. They discuss topics big and small, from the food and temperature to the casting and Linney's history of working with Gere every decade. Playful (Moverman has to stop himself from gushing over Linney) and informative (the ending is revealed to be less ambiguous than your initial impression), this track isn't bad, but most should find the movie itself laborious enough to finish, so I can't imagine there being a huge appetite to revisit the film in this way.

A photo gallery consists of eleven images, most of them behind-the-scenes ones.

"Trailers" repeats the same three full previews with which the disc loads, for The Hero, Beatriz at Dinner, and Lady MacBeth. The Dinner's trailer is not included here.

An insert supplying the Digital HD code is all that joins the plain gray disc inside the slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

The menu loops clips and piano score.

This is how you might feel at the end of "The Dinner."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Dinner appears to be one of 2017's most hated films. This drama is certainly problematic and unsatisfying, but at least it's distinctive and showcases a complex and fantastic performance by Steve Coogan. While the odds are you would probably dislike this messy, unsympathetic study, I can't completely discount seeing it on the bases mentioned.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray boasts great picture and sound plus an okay commentary. It's a standard release of a middle-of-the-pack indie.

Buy The Dinner from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Beatriz at Dinner • A Ghost Story • The Hero • Chuck • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 • Dean
Steve Coogan: Philomena • Our Idiot Brother • What Maisie Knew • The Trip to Spain
Richard Gere: Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer • The Hoax • Brooklyn's Finest • Primal Fear
Rebecca Hall: Tumbledown • Lay the Favorite • Please Give • Transcendence • Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Babette's Feast • My Dinner with Andre • Dinner for Schmucks

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Reviewed October 16, 2017.



Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2017 The Orchard, Code Red, Protagonist Pictures, and Lionsgate. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.