Richard Gere, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Steve Buscemi, Lior Ashkenazi, Michael Sheen
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Norman is pitched somewhere between comedy and character-driven drama, succeeding as neither.
Subtitled “The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer”, this is a decidedly ill-conceived farrago. It starts off sounding like a whimsical Woody Allen film, but has little of the wit and – with all of its plodding and adding – none of the narrative discipline or astute editing.
Richard Gere plays Norman Oppenheimer, a relentless schemer who’s constantly trying to ingratiate himself with powerful people – be they in business or politics – and put them in contact with others, with a view to getting money and influence and being feted and appreciated. His efforts are often unsuccessful to the point of disaster, but because he’s basically annoying and unctuous rather than a likeable rogue it’s hard to care (and when he shows positive qualities it’s still hard). One day he meets visiting Israeli politician Michael Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), and earns his undying gratitude by buying him a pair of shoes. (Don’t ask.) Three years later Eshel is the prime minister of Israel, he sees Norman in Washington D.C. and Norman’s luck seems set to improve …
There are occasional sparks of vitality here, as when Charlotte Gainsbourg (who plays a legal investigator) manifests a swag of screen presence – but ‘occasional’ is the operative word. The often excellent Gere plays Norman in a way that is merely pathetic rather than sympathetic, and the plot is pointlessly convoluted – while at the same time devoid of some crucial details. And many of the Jewish cultural and religious allusions will remain opaque to gentiles.
Norman is pitched somewhere between comedy and character-driven drama, succeeding as neither. For the most part it’s simply boring, and doesn’t work.