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Eating Disorder

The Orchard

The Dinner (2017)

The third film adaptation of Herman Koch's eponymous novel (following Menno Meyjes's 2013 "Het Diner" and Ivano De Matteo's 2014 "I nostri ragazzi"), Oren Moverman's "The Dinner" indeed plays out like a European art thriller — perhaps one by Thomas Vinterberg (despite that he's Danish and Mr. Koch is Dutch).

The titular occasion sets the table for U.S. congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere); his estranged wife, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall); his estranged brother, Paul (Steve Coogan), and Paul's wife, Claire (Laura Linney), to discuss how best to control the damage of a heinous crime their respective teenage children have committed together but for which they have yet to be identified by authorities. Although at stake are the futures of the kids as well as Stan's reelection bid, the story serves up sibling rivalry, domestic discord and class resentment as appetizers.

Themes of social inequality that whet our appetite eventually give way to unfulfilling contrivances. Despite being reviled by just about every other character, Stan turns out to be a principled person in a not-so-delicious twist. Paul's mental health issues account for his hostility, while Claire's maternal instincts explain away her amorality. An ambiguous ending meant as dessert feels quite stale. Seemingly impressed by the source material’s potential to push buttons, Mr. Moverman has done little to temper the story's unsavory staginess.


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