The dinner is the least interesting part of “The Dinner.” Every minute spent in the opulent restaurant is an absolute bore, like we’ve been sitting for hours at a restaurant table, waiting for the real movie meal to arrive. It’s an interesting concept in theory, a casual dinner conversation that slowly unravels like a ball of yarn, revealing painful truths about characters pasts in ways not us or they could have ever expected. In execution, or at least in director Oren Moverman’s execution, those truths are literally as boring as said ball of yarn.
“The Dinner” centers on Paul, an outspoken and anxious former teacher, and his brother Stan, a respected congressman and gubernatorial candidate played by Richard Gere . Paul is the assertive, obnoxious type who believes if they speak the most words in a conversation, that makes them inherently right. Stan is the type whom is constantly willing to lend a helping hand, and by doing so, inadvertently suggesting you need help and that he is the proper person to provide it. Along with Paul’s wife Claire, played by Laura Linney, and Stan’s wife Katelyn, played by Rebecca Hall, the four unwillingly join together for dinner to discuss a dire matter at hand regarding their sons.
As the characters dine, the movie feeds us crucial information about their past, about diseases that were triumphed and those whose effects are still being felt, about harsh memories and the even harsher inability to forget them. When juxtaposed with the dinner scenes, the flashbacks feel cramped. But if the movie was just composed of these flashbacks and the dinner was entirely cancelled, it would have been significantly better for it. Otherwise, the film feels too stuffed as is, and too empty without.
There’s only so much “The Dinner” can do though with its structure, considering its based on a book and needs to align itself to that original source material in some way. A novel is a much better way to portray this story, as it would allow the Lohman’s to really dig deep to the root of their conflicts. In the film, they sadly walk away from these conflicts just as ground is being broken. “The Dinner” also feels like it would have been better as a play, as there is really only two or three sets that are needed, and that intimacy with the characters would be golden on stage when it only bores on the silver screen.