Monthly Archives: April 2017

Film Review: Norman

Film Review: Norman

It is a little hard to avoid spoilers in a film with the title Norman: The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer. Luckily, writer/director Joseph Cedar (Footnote) has made Norman’s journey sufficiently interesting that you will not mind having a notion of its destination. Good acting, especially by Richard Gere in the title role, makes this a compelling character study.

Norman Oppenheimer roams the streets of New York, pitching get-rich-quick schemes to everyone he meets. His relentless networking alienates people, especially since he tends to embellish his ties to the rich and powerful.

One day, Norman meets Micha Eschel (Lior Ashkenazi), an Israeli politician visiting New York because his career has hit a rough patch. Norman seizes the opportunity to give Micha a pair of expensive shoes, which deeply touches the politician.

When Micha’s career undergoes a reversal of fortune, Norman finds his personal reputation rises as well. Ever the gambler, Norman decides it is time to embark on his biggest deal yet. His nephew Philip Cohen (Michael Sheen) denounces him as “a drowning man trying to wave at an ocean liner”. Norman retorts that he is a “strong swimmer”.

The character of Norman is Cedar’s attempt to update the old character of the Court Jew, who handled finances or lent money to European royalty in return for enhanced social status. Cedar also mentions the Shakespearean character Shylock as an influence.

Norman is your basic unreliable protagonist. He wears the same clothes throughout the film, and you never see him at home. Although he mentions departed family members, you keep wondering if they are inventions of convenience. Philip is the only relative who actually appears in the film. It is clear there is an affectionate bond between Philip and Norman, but equally clear that Philip distrusts him.

The film’s success is directly tied to the ability of Richard Gere to convince us that we should root for Norman, quirks and all. While Gere’s performance is stellar, he played a similar role in 2015’s Time Out Of Mind. George, his character in that film, was an unstable homeless man hoping to reconcile with his estranged daughter. George and Norman are kindred spirits, in that both struggle to remain relevant in a world that tends to overlook them. Filmgoers are lucky to have these two richly nuanced performances from Gere.

There are a number of wonderful small moments from Sheen, Steve Buscemi as Norman’s long-suffering rabbi, and Charlotte Gainsbourg as an embassy official whom Norman chats up on a train.

Cedar and his cinematographer, Yaron Scharf, do some nifty camerawork with split screens. The effect heightens our perception of Norman as someone with a dubious grip on reality. Jun Miyake’s scoring helps establish and maintain this mood.

My only quibble with the narrative is its predictability, lengthy subtitle notwithstanding. The story builds to a third-act reveal that most viewers will guess long in advance. On the other hand, Cedar and Gere get so much right that they still won me over.

Theme: Wheeler-Dealers

Related Posts: Film Appreciation: The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-the-apprenticeship-of-duddy-kravitz/

Wheeler-Dealers: List For Week Ending April 30, 2017  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/wheeler-dealers-list-for-week-ending-april-30-2017/

Wheeler-Dealers: List For Week Ending April 30, 2017

Wheeler-Dealers: List For Week Ending April 30, 2017

Our films this week all feature entrepreneurial types, who may or may not work within the law. This is not an all-inclusive list. Reader suggestions are welcome. If you know an addition to this list, please write using the comments below. Norman (2016) (Reviewed In Thinking Cinema 4/26/17) http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-review-norman/ The Apprenticeship Of Duddy Kravitz (1974) (ArticleContinue Reading

Film Review: The Promise

Film Review: The Promise

Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, an Armenian-American, was the driving force behind The Promise. His aim was to make a film about a disputed subject: the Ottoman Empire’s slaughter of over one million Armenians in World War I. Kerkorian wanted the story to evoke classic films like Dr. Zhivago. Good intentions only go so far in filmmaking.Continue Reading

Film Appreciation: Dr. Zhivago

Film Appreciation: Dr. Zhivago

A bit of trivia-the first screen adaptation of Dr. Zhivago was a 1959 Brazilian television mini series called Doutor Jivago. It was also made as a mini series in 2002 and 2006. But if you ask someone to recall a screen version of Dr. Zhivago, chances are they will mention David Lean’s 1965 film. Dr.Continue Reading

Film Review: Their Finest

Film Review: Their Finest

Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest casts a light on Britain’s efforts to sustain wartime morale through cinema. Their Finest, adapted from the novel by Lissa Evans, is the story of an accidental female screenwriter working for the Ministry of Information during the London Blitz. The screenwriter, naïve Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), contacts the Ministry of InformationContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: Living In Oblivion

Film Appreciation: Living In Oblivion

You do not have to be fan of independent films to enjoy Living In Oblivion, but it helps. Tom DiCillo’s film is a warts-and-all depiction of shooting on a low-budget indie. It is real, and often savagely funny. DiCillo was experiencing a high level of professional frustration in 1993. Despite having won Best Picture atContinue Reading

Last Minute Revisions: List For Week Ending April 16, 2017

Last Minute Revisions: List For Week Ending April 16, 2017

Our films this week all deal with cinematic or theatrical productions where many revisions occur. This is not intended as an all-inclusive list. Reader suggestions are welcome. If you know an addition to this list, please write using the comments below. Their Finest (2016) (Reviewed In Thinking Cinema 4/13/17)  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-review-their-finest/ Living In Oblivion (1995) (ArticleContinue Reading

Highlights For Week Ending April 16, 2017

Highlights For Week Ending April 16, 2017

FILM AND SCREENWRITING CLASSES AT BALTIMORE’S JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY! Yale professor Marc Lapadula will teach two seminars at Johns Hopkins University: APRIL 15, 2017: IT’S BLACK-AND-WHITE! THE GREATEST COMEDY AND FILM THRILLER Join Marc for a screenings of Some Like it Hot and Psycho, which will be followed by lecture and audience discussion. APRIL 29,Continue Reading