‘The Dinner’ Review Roundup: Thriller Splits Critics, Leaves Some Hungry For More
The Dinner follows Richard Gere as Stan Lohman reconnecting with his estranged brother Paul (Steve Coogan) to decide how to handle the fate of their 16-year-old sons who have committed a terrible crime. The brothers and their wives Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) and Claire (Laura Linney) meet at a restaurant, where the tense, violent drama takes place. The couples rehash their own beliefs and relationships in this R-rated suspense film.
The movie scored right down the middle with a 49% on Rottentomatoes. Critics were clearly split on the film, with some finding it boring and unsatisfying, and others completely engrossed in the psychological thriller. The Dinner is based on the best-selling 2009 novel by Dutch author Herman Koch.
THE DINNER REVIEW ROUNDUP
“Oren Moverman doesn’t make movies so much as set traps. His films as writer and director – the military-vet drama The Messenger, the bad-cop character study Rampart, the incredible portrait-of-a-homeless-man Time Out of Mind – are built to detonate. And when the explosion comes, the dust never really clears; you’re left with shards that keep digging in, provocations you can’t get out of your head. The Dinner, the latest missile from this brilliant Israeli-American filmmaker, is no exception… There are bumps along the way, transitions from one medium to another will do that, but this filmmaker and his fierce foursome won’t be done till they take a piece out of you. It’s a gripping psychological thriller with a sting in its tail.”
–Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“The Dinner should be a scabrous satire of awful kids with more awful parents. Koch notoriously declined to attend the afterparty following the Berlin premiere because he was so turned off by what he saw as moralizing in this film version. I’m not sure I see that, but I’m not sure I see anything. It’s as if Moverman couldn’t commit to the stinging, harsh take on affluence that this needed to work, and so he fell back on filmmaking tricks instead. He’s trying to keep himself entertained, playing with structure instead of finding a reason to do so. The form only loosely feels like it’s trying to comment on or enhance the action here. Most of the time, it’s a meal that just doesn’t leave you feeling full in any way.”
–Brian Tallerico, rogerebert.com
“Partly, it is a thriller: Scenes in the restaurant, a darkened place that director Oren Moverman envisages as palatial, forbidding and almost malevolent in atmosphere, alternate with events a few days earlier, a night on which the the family’s two teenage cousins commit a horrible crime… The Dinner does have blackly funny elements, its bitter critique often hinting at comedy. Besides psychological drama, besides thriller, social satire is another significant element in this sometimes erratic film and it’s one that, surprisingly and belatedly, rises to the top: Anyone who started out thinking The Dinner was a thriller will probably be disappointed when the evening wraps up with an ending that is more farce than denouement.”
–Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail
“What we’re left with is a morality play in which three deeply deplorable people — and one surprising white knight — wrestle with class privilege, mental illness and extremely silly food. As for Paul, I expect he was a lot more bearable on the page than in our faces.:
–Jeanette Catsoulis, The New York Times
“At times the exchanges seem written with almost too much precision, but overall the dialogue is authentic and powerful, sometimes shockingly so… As you might expect from this cast, all four leads are simply outstanding. In a movie world filled with intergalactic explosions, it remains a welcome thing to experience the kind of fireworks that take place between three-dimensional, deeply flawed characters grappling with major issues in a civilized setting, their true emotions often bubbling to the surface.”
–Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun Times