The Dinner Blu-ray Review
After contemplating on his deck and his couch, Paul enters his bedroom where his wife, Claire, is applying makeup. “I’m not going,” he tells her. Paul (Steve Coogan, MINDHORN) isn’t looking forward to seeing his brother, Stan, but Claire (Laura Linney, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS) presses, ultimately ending in the decision to go to dinner.
Stan Lohman (Richard Gere, THE BENEFACTOR) is a congressman running for governor and the one who requested he, his brother, sister-in-law and wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall, CHRISTINE) sit down for an expensive meal at a hard-to-book restaurant. The reasoning is hinted at through the occasional sequence featuring their sons (one begins with pot smoke and ends with cops), but it’s never explicit until the characters are ready to make it so.
There are secrets dancing around the table, with the intent of adding a boiling subtlety to the atmosphere. But what’s infuriating here is that the characters so badly want to dodge the central issue. At one point, Stan tells a colleague, “After tonight, it’ll all be over.” We’re nudged to wonder what “it” is, but then, as the night draws on, we wander towards, Couldn’t this have been taken care of over coffee?
The most present relationship in THE DINNER (incredible title, although STAN AND PAUL RESOLVE THEIR ISSUE BEFORE THEY CAN VALET THEIR CARS would have been much more appealing) is that of, yes, Stan and Paul. That they are played by Richard Gere and Steve Coogan offers promise, but the men are so irritating and pompous that it’s difficult to care what the source of their animosity is or whether or not they’ll agree on how to handle the situation on the table.
Consider Paul, who complains incessantly and comes off as a bitter know-it-all jerk. At one point, he’s asked by a guest what he’s reading, to which he replies, “A book.” At various points, we’re forced to listened to his inner soliloquies, in which he thinly rambles off needless recollections from various hardcovers he’s trudged through, boring us as he surely did his former students. One of these ends with, “History is over. Everything that’s happening is now.” That line, like most of Paul’s, has all the depth of a cup of tea. In the other chair is Stan, so concerned with his career and his status that he keeps an aide in another room puts more thought into where he sits than his own family’s well-being.
Based on Herman Koch’s 2009 novel and directed by Oren Moverman (2014’s TIME OUT OF MIND, 2009’s THE MESSENGER), THE DINNER is a fumbling, self-absorbed disaster. It’s not smart, it’s not compelling and not even its talented cast can make it interesting. Making it through THE DINNER is like ordering wagyu and getting served cold fries.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This transfer offers fine details and colors throughout, even as visual styles shift in various sequences.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. As THE DINNER is dialogue-driven, fans will be pleased that each conversation and monologue comes through without fault.
Audio commentary with writer/director Oren Moverman and actress Laura Linney: Although Richard Gere, Steve Coogan and Rebecca Hall would have been welcome additions, this is a fine track in which Moverman and Linney discuss the production.