‘Norman’: Drama or fantasy?
Published 12:00 am, Saturday, June 17, 2017
Richard Gere has been earning some of the strongest reviews of his career for playing an elderly New York City “fixer” in the movie, “Norman.”
Written and directed by Joseph Cedar, the U.S./Israeli co-production has been doing well on the late-spring art house circuit, largely on the strength of the reviews for Gere’s performance.
The comedy-drama follows a Manhattan businessman named Norman Oppenheimer, who is always trying desperately to advance himself based on his ability to act as a go-between with important people looking for business deals. He specializes in American-Israeli business and politics, using his Jewish ethnicity as a way to attach himself to busy and powerful people.
Cedar gives the film a theatrical feel by dividing it into “acts” and adding a subtitle to the story — “The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.”
As the movie proceeds, “Norman” seems to turn into a fable of sorts, as deliberately unrealistic elements are introduced. We never see where the man lives, and there are no scenes set in the offices of the company he claims to work for.
“Norman” earned an 87 percent approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
Our Hearst meet-up group at the Avon Theatre in Stamford had a mixed response to the film, with Margaret Mitchell, of Fairfield, saying, “I can’t give it a positive review because it seemed to struggle with deciding what it wanted to be — a Woody Allen comedy or a fantasy.
“Was it supposed to be a comedy, or a suspense film, or a crime drama? I didn’t think it succeeded as any of those,” she said.
Sherry Natkow, of Manhattan, was surprised that more of her fellow Jews didn’t find the portrayal of Norman to contain anti-Semitic elements — i.e., Norman as the hateful stereotype of a “pushy Jew.”
“I thought Gere was very good, though,” she said.
Marion Beale, of Greenwich, loved the film, and the way the story was wrapped up in an almost magical manner.
“I really liked his performance,” Beale said of Gere’s work. “He played someone who isn’t quite real. I think Norman was an almost mythical person, like a comic book superhero, but with flashes of genius.”