Warning: Oren Moverman, the film’s co-producer, was the director of the God awful The Dinner.
Norman is a semi-interesting film that defines why many people avoid movies playing at an “art cinema”. Centering in New York where most of the characters are Jewish (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s plot is wrapped around themes that gradually left me on the outside looking in.
Richard Gere, coming off his disastrous performance in The Dinner, plays Norman Oppenheimer, a guy who floats through New York as a business fixer. Throughout the entire film he wanders the streets of Manhattan in the same brown overcoat while spending every minute on the phone.
Mr. Oppenheimer has one daily mission and that is to make contacts that he can mine for gold. In the process, he hunts down Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), an Israeli politician that he decides to impress by buying him an expensive pair of shoes. While this looks to Oppenheimer like a gift that will keep on giving, things lead him to the edge of hell in a handbasket when Eshel becomes the Israeli Prime Minister under investigation for taking financial favors.
Suddenly, Norman’s life begins to unravel. While trying to help a rabbi (Steve Buscemi) raise millions of dollars to save his building, he makes the mistake of telling an Israeli lawyer, Alex Green (Charlotte Gainsbourg), about the shoe buying incident. Oppenheimer quickly dances on the edge of becoming a modern day John Dean in the Israeli version of Watergate.
Though the film has some intriguing moments, it is so loosely held together that amateur critics like myself are left quoting the old rock song, “I hate myself for loving you.” Despite some good performances from Michael Sheen, Dan Stevens and Hank Azaria, in the end everyone seems like misplaced pieces of a puzzle that looked entertaining on its promotional cover.
Quite frankly, Gere’s one-dimensional performance walking the streets resembles Cynthia Nixon’s performance as Emily Dickinson where most of the film takes place in her home. Here, the streets become his home and you literally know nothing about his personal life.
Let me leave you with this prediction. As you leave the theater, I suspect the most positive thing anyone will say is, “I think I liked it…where is the nearest bar?”