Do you want to do yourself a huge favor?
Tomorrow is Sunday. If you're here in my hometown of Indy, I want you to wake up and get every little errand that you need to get done for the day in the morning. Then, I want you to head over to Landmark's Keystone Art Cinema and spend the afternoon watching not one but two fine performances by Richard Gere in smaller indie pictures that you won't likely find at the multiplex yet that are deserving to be seen and guaranteed to entertain. The first, The Dinner, is a more dramatic film that is intense and moving and involving and serves up a stellar performance by Gere.
Then, there's this film - Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, a richly human comedy from Sony Classics and writer/director Joseph Cedar about Norman Oppenheimer (Gere), a film that is rather difficult to describe with its unique brand of dramedy that isn't really dramedy at all. I suppose we could call it tragicomedy, but even that feels like an inaccurate label for exactly what unfolds here.
It's a terrific film. That's what it is.
Gere has been immersing himself as of late in some really fine projects, some not quite living up to his quality work, such as in Time Out of Mind, and other times projects like this one where everything seems to gel and you can't help but hope that the film finds the audience it so richly deserves.
Gere's Norman is a small-time operator who befriends a young politician at a low-point in his life. Three years later, said politician becomes an influential world leader and suddenly Norman's life is changed dramatically for better and for worse.
With a business card that reads Oppenheimer Strategies, Norman is always trying to strategize. He's a fixer, but mostly in his own mind, and a guy who is constantly on the fringes of everything and every deal and everyone. Gere's Norman is equal parts utterly fascinating and rather sad and pathetic. He's funny, but if we're being honest we're laughing at him and not with him. He's a fast talker, but he's never talking quite fast enough and Gere plays beautifully a guy who seems to try to keep talking and keep shaking hands in the hopes that one fix will actually fix himself. He lies so often that it's doubtful anyone could tell us the truth and yet he's so completely earnest about it all that one really can't begrudge him this life that he chooses to life.
Norman is a showcase for the mighty fine talents of Gere, whose character work in recent years has gone far too unacclaimed. I'd take 100 more performances like this one over another Pretty Woman anyday.
While it's Gere who really stands out here, Norman is an ensemble motion picture with fine performances across the board with special mentions for Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michael Sheen, Steve Buscemi and the always dependable Michael Sheen. Everyone shines here, mostly in smaller scenes, while Gere himself is pretty close to front and center in nearly all of the film's 118 minutes.
Jun Miyake's original score is light and playful while Yaron Scharf's lensing is effective throughout in helping to capture the film's lighter and darker moments.
A tremendous adult drama guaranteed to entertain, Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer arrives at Indy's Keystone Art Cinema with Sony's indie branch, Sony Classics.
Seriously, I'm telling you. Sunday afternoon. Spend the afternoon with Richard Gere. You won't regret it.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic